Six schools in Abingdon and the surrounding area are set to launch an independent and state school partnership that is mutually beneficial to students and staff at all the schools.
John Mason, Radley College, Fitzharrys, Abingdon, St Helen and St Katharine, and Larkmead have worked together very successfully over the last 5 years, on an informal basis, and have now decided to go a step further and formalise their affiliation.
The formation of a new, formal partnership named the OX14 Learning Partnership will provide a strategic plan for how the schools can ensure impactful partnership activity takes place.
The aim of the partnership is to raise educational aspirations across the OX14 postcode by providing opportunities for students and staff to be challenged, inspired and learn from each other. A range of extracurricular activities and events will encourage collaboration between the schools as well as providing opportunities for widening horizons.
Students, teachers and governors will gather together for an official launch event later in the month with attendance from Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and other local councillors. This will be a chance for members to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for this collaboration.
The partnership came about as a result of existing relationships between teachers across the town and acknowledgement from the DfE of the power of cross-sector partnerships. Speaking at the Schools Together annual conference in June 2019, Lord Agnew said:
“This government’s ambition is to create an education system that extends opportunity to everyone. One of the ways in which we can extend opportunity is through partnerships – schools working with other schools and universities to share what’s best about each sector.”
School leaders from across the town have had a number of discussions to agree on joint aims which focus on opportunity, inspiration and mental health and wellbeing support. These priorities will shape the partnership and activities will be planned to provide opportunities for growth and development in these areas.
The Mercers’ Company, a livery company focused on being a philanthropic force for good, has provided funding for key roles within the partnership. The appointment of a Partnership Coordinator and Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator has supported the development and progress to this point. They will work between the schools to help facilitate and bring together ideas for the partnership.
Each school has also nominated a Partnership representative who will help shape the vision and facilitation of partnership activities. Rob Southwell-Sander, Director of Partnerships at Abingdon School says,
‘Each school operates differently but we all have so much to learn from one another by sharing best practice.’
Sarah Brinkley, Executive Headteacher of Abingdon Learning Trust says,
‘We are delighted to continue working with other local schools as part of this partnership. We have the same vision; that our children access the best learning opportunities and that our staff excel – OX14 is founded on these principles.’
A student voice committee will play a vital part in the development of the partnership, not only in the planning and running of events but also as an opportunity for students to have their views heard and to collaborate with students from across the partnership.
Activities such as academic coaching and peer mentoring across the six schools have already been established, giving students and staff the opportunity to collaborate and share ideas as well as to develop leadership skills. Involvement from the Abingdon Science Partnership will also provide opportunities for challenge and inspiration.
The Partnership will look to work alongside local organisations to provide opportunities for students across the schools. Examples include The Oxfordshire Academy of Broadcast journalism which will run media workshops.
Workshops and guest speakers in creative and emerging digital industries will allow students to explore the array of careers in this field and work with others across the partnership. Plans are also being made for opportunities in sport, music, languages and the Arts as well as teacher networks and CPD opportunities for staff and Higher Education support for students.
Mental Health and wellbeing will be at the heart of the partnership with workshops, speakers and events to support the whole community. Plans for a youth space in collaboration with The Abingdon Bridge are also being explored. At a time when young people and teachers have been isolated, overwhelmed and experienced great challenges, a partnership with clear aims and commitments can achieve a real sense of belonging, sustainability and civic pride.