With tightened budgets and a move towards academy
status for a number of its schools, the collaboration of headteachers in the Bassetlaw area partnerships has never been more important. Brian Rossiter explains
HERE HASnever been a better time to cement relationships between schools, colleges and other partners. The current seismic shift in the educational landscape could lead to entrenchment, competition and isolationism – or to collaboration, support and mutual
benefit. The district within which I work is following the latter model. Bassetlaw, a district of about 300 square miles
across the north of Nottinghamshire, has a history of partnership working. Secondary headteachers, the further education college principal, local authority representatives and even the head of the local public school (on occasions) have met monthly for the last 20 years to discuss issues of mutual concern and to plan strategically. We meet and share experiences, information and
concerns, plan our joint futures and call Nottinghamshire education officers to account and for advice; they have to travel 40 miles to meet us but still attend. The advent of Diplomas was easier to facilitate
across our district given the partnership structure that existed to take the initiative forwards. We jointly employ a 14 to 19 co-ordinator across our institutions to facilitate area-wide activity. In the case of Diplomas,
Politics and pragmatism
our co-ordinator ensured that we not only delivered courses to students working across centres but more importantly we had a set of principles governing our working “behaviours” to which we all subscribed. But the educational world that we inhabit is
changing fast. Before the election we were very aware that a major shift in the governance of schools via the development of academies was highly likely. As a group, we watched as the coalition government promoted this route for initially outstanding schools and then for schools holding other Ofsted labels. Our (Conservative-led) local authority overtly
supported a policy that encouraged all schools to convert to academy status. Around the district, individual schools looked at their positions and five out of seven are now set to convert during this academic year. Decisions have been made by individual schools but
not in isolation. Our partnership is strong enough to allow us to explore with each other the benefits or otherwise of making this change. It is based on a fundamental belief across the area that we gain more from working in collaboration than as isolated institutions.
FOR BETTER CHILD HEALTH SCHOOL NURSES MORE
A properly resourced school nursing service is required to help schools meet the government’s health and wellbeing objectives.
Research published in the British Journal of School Nursing (BJSN) shows that more school nurses are needed to meet these objectives and ensure school children receive the health care and support they deserve. Therefore
the BJSN has launched a campaign to increase the number of school nurses.
For more information on the campaign visit
Support the campaign or send us your views at:
SecEd • March 17 2011
SCHOOL NURSES FOR BETTER CHILD HEALTH
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WFT-AD-59-03/11 We all remember the dark days of grant-maintained
(GM) status and we do not want that experience to be repeated. At that time, in some areas, some GM schools were either ostracised by other schools or they adopted a highly individualistic approach where they distanced themselves from neighbouring educational institutions. Our five soon-to-be academies have all made public
statements re-affirming our desire to maintain our partnerships. The cynics around us challenge us by saying that this could easily change with a change of leadership in one or more organisation. That could be true but the strength of feeling about our joint purpose leads me to believe that this will not happen. Yes, we may modify the way that we work together but we will still work together. Looming cuts and current budget pressures all
serve to highlight the need to work closely together. Our local authority has slashed the back office support for schools. The advisory and inspection team has lost about 80 per cent of its staff. We already know of increased costs for any support we may receive or wish to purchase. The pressure on the Children and
Young People’s Department is such that I foresee them to be shortly delivering/supporting only that which is statutory. Our district partnership is looking at all of this and we are looking to our own resources and expertise to fill the gaps. An example of this work is that of our fledgling
“Schools Behaviour and Attendance Partnership”. We are aware that there is no longer a requirement to work in partnership and this is one example where some schools are abrogating their responsibilities to their wider communities. We all believe that we should play our full role in behaviour partnerships and operating hard to place protocols. As such we have been working together to establish
systems to support permanently excluded students and those where managed moves might offer support to both students and schools. This is the hard part of partnership working. This is an area where it would be easier to ignore one’s responsibilities and go it alone. As a district, we are taking on this challenge and working together to find solutions. Some of us are converting to academy status with
sponsors. This widens the potential circle of partners and the way we work with them. The sponsor at Valley School, where I am headteacher, for example, has staff we can call upon for advice, guidance and help on the ground, in the classroom in many subject areas, as well as with academy-wide systems that we are putting in place to develop our behaviour management and data-tracking systems. We do not wish to re-invent a wheel that exists elsewhere. Our sponsor provides that practical support and fills the role that the “Advisory Service” fulfilled years ago. Providing practical solutions to seemingly intractable problems is a key element to our new relationship with our extended partnering world. Partnership working is not like speed-dating. It is for
the long-term and not just for short-term fixes when a school needs help. I am on public record as saying: “Let the politicians fight and squabble among themselves. Let the pragmatists find solutions. In this new education environment we should be putting partnerships and collaboration before competition.” Schools are populated by down-to-earth individuals.
Harnessing the energy of these individuals and groups of schools and organisations through active partnerships will support us as we attempt to cope with the fast- changing educational landscape in which we find ourselves today.
• Brian Rossiter is headteacher of Valley School in Worksop, part of the Bassetlaw Partnership.
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