The secrets to an independent and state school partnership

We asked five headteachers who are part of the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) to reveal their thoughts about partnerships

The key to any successful collaboration is trust, mutual respect and a growth mindset. Every school can learn something from any other – the difference in context between schools can be an advantage. Aim high, but start small. Establish trust and build the partnership organically; develop a collaboration that is explicitly two-way and don’t let geography rule out potential partners. 
Nick Wergan, Head of Steyning Grammar School

Establishing a programme which is both achievable, embedded, and not a ‘one-off’.  As a relatively small school, in an out-of-town setting, our most successful partnership is realised by working with our local primary school. They are able to use our resources. 
Jessica Miles, Head of Queen Margaret’s School

In 2007, schools minister Lord Adonis told independent schools that we should implant our ‘educational DNA’ into state schools. However, partnership can never be the simple transplanting of what works in one educational setting into another. Context is all – I would be very wary of prescribing what would work in any another school. That said, I’m always curious about what others are up to in their schools, and so I ask, and we start talking. It doesn’t matter how or where a partnership starts, as long as all involved are doing it because they are excited by it, and as equals. 
Colin Baty, Head of Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst

Success is dependent on both members understanding the mutual benefits. There remains a danger that independent schools see themselves as the cavalry. Both schools must agree the parameters for the partnership. Governors, staff and pupils must understand the shared educational vision. Goals set must be achievable and fit within the ethos of both schools. There needs to be strong leadership on both sides; support at governor level and from the staff who will carry most of the additional load. Excellent communication is needed between the partners. Both sides need to show commitment to the partnership and appreciate that it will not all be plain sailing. 
Wendy Griffiths, Headmistress of Tudor Hall

The secret of a successful working partnership is to treat each other with respect and most importantly as equals. The latter is crucial. Both sectors have strengths and they have weaknesses and it’s important that they work closely together to benefit the learning of the student. Sharing best practice, the use of facilities (sport, music, art, drama), weekend classes, sporting fixtures, shared concerts, shared drama productions, teacher exchanges, student exchanges, even senior leader exchanges all make for a worthwhile experience for both sectors and helps to break down those ‘them and us’ barriers and myths. After all, every child matters. 
Irfan Latif, Principal of DLD College London

Boarding Schools’ Association: boarding.org.uk

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