As a school leader, juggling and accommodating the range of responsibilities schools are expected to deal with can be hugely complicated, but it’s important to remember you are not alone: local community groups can provide invaluable assistance.
This is the message of Jim Minton, governor of a special school in London and director of communications and membership at charity London Youth. Writing in the 20 March issue of TES, he explains that creating community partnerships not only helps schools to address issues around pupil welfare and learning but also ensures that young people are connected to their community.
Earlier this year, Ofsted praised Mr Minton’s school for the variety and quality of its partnerships and the contribution these made to students’ success. Mr Minton says there are six key ingredients for forming and securing good partnerships – five of these points are below, and you can find the remaining gem in the 20 March issue of TES.
1. Discuss outcomes
Agreeing on outcomes will ensure that everyone pulls together. For example, an arts-based youth organisation and a neighbouring special school quickly identified a shared need to support young women with learning difficulties around sexual health. Both agreed this would lead to better behaviour and more engagement in learning, thereby supporting higher attainment.
2. Define roles
Although schools offer broad curriculum support inside the classroom, community organisations have expertise in engaging young people and supporting them outside school hours. Try to utilise each partner’s strengths instead of forcing them into areas where they are not comfortable.
3. Highlight mutual benefits
If a partnership can help to boost engagement and raise attainment – for example, by offering broader connections with families through trusted community organisations – then everyone involved will get real value from the work.
4. Find the right location
Although most youth centres don’t have the facilities of modern schools, they do have skilled staff and environments designed to engage and relax young people. Many pupil referral units in London speak highly of the partnerships they have with youth clubs and the value of working in a different space.
5. Give young people a say
A high-quality partnership will give young people the chance to design and lead aspects of their own learning. Good youth clubs and good schools both do this, and it is certainly in line with the importance Ofsted attaches to pupil voice.