The importance of partnerships
Dr Helen Wood, head of school partnerships at Password Testing, discusses the mutually enriching relationships it seeks to create with schools
It probably has not passed you by that we are approaching the third anniversary of the Brexit referendum. Declared ‘our independence day’ by Nigel Farage, the outcome marked the symbolic end of a relationship between the United Kingdom and its European partners which could, at best, be described as ambivalent and, at worst, difficult, if not dysfunctional.
Of course, this is not the way the best partnerships work. For a start, partnerships are not just about supplying a service, such as allowing Britain seamless access to a single market in the case of our EU membership. Nor are good partnerships merely an opportunity to showcase a particular ideal at every headline event or conference – or perhaps we should say ‘showboating’ in terms of Mr Farage and his Brexit party MEPs, who claim an almost symbiotic partnership with British public opinion.
Rather, genuine partnerships are meaningful. They are about mutual support and long-term development. They are based on frequent, high-quality communication and the opportunity to discuss shared issues, evaluate what is going well and identify areas of common interest where greater collaboration can lead to innovation and improvements for everyone involved. Strong partnerships provide encouragement in difficult times, access to a wide network of like-minded people and are rich sources of advice.
My career has provided me with many such partnership opportunities. I owe a great deal of my early professional development to the input of colleagues from other member schools of BAISIS. I absorbed every snippet that might help improve EAL practices at my own school and appreciated the open-hearted sharing that occurred at meetings and conferences. Later, as its deputy chair, it was my privilege to be responsible (at least in part) for organising CPD opportunities for colleagues new to the field of international education. I viewed this as my opportunity to ‘pay it forward’, another example, perhaps, of why good partnerships have at their very core a spirit which is self-renewing.
Strong partnerships provide encouragement in difficult times, access to a wide network of like-minded people and are rich sources of advice
More recently, in my role as head of school partnerships at Password, I have been able to attend events organised by AMCIS, the British Boarding Schools Network and the BSA. This has brought me into contact with an entirely new group of people, mainly those concerned with the commercial core of any school’s operations – marketing and pupil recruitment.
I have continued to be amazed at the way expertise is shared and we work together to shine light on areas where everyone can ‘up their game’. The excellence combined with integrity on show is quite inspiring.
This kind of mutually enriching relationship is at the heart of how Password seeks to work with its partners, be they schools, colleges or universities. The company was born from the desire of its founder, Caroline Browne, to collaborate with the university sector on the development of a secure online admissions test. The Password Pupil suite was created in response to a head of EAL commenting, ‘That’s a great system! Do you do a test which is suitable for schools?’
Just last month we ran a workshop for current and prospective partner schools. The event gave us the chance to feedback on enhancements we had put in place in response to invaluable school partner input. It also generated a whole series of new suggested improvements.
Discussions were lively and positive, with everyone demonstrating a strong engagement in the process. It was honest, open cooperation on display – not mistrust, competition or fear. Sadly, it is the lack of many of these key features of successful partnerships which has led us to the current political impasse with regard to our relationship with Europe.
You can only feel ownership over something you are contributing to with genuine, ongoing, wholehearted investment – something many British politicians and much of the media and public have failed to exhibit with respect to the EU. Perhaps to our surprise and misfortune, we have discovered that the principles which are the foundation of enriching personal relationships and inspirational business partnerships hold true for inter-governmental organisations as well.