The past few years have seen a growth in the popularity of school collaborations, both formal and informal. The increase of trusts and academies has encouraged this further, with around 60% of UK secondary schools now at academy status and this percentage is expected to become higher. This process has seen more schools that are part of trusts and federations sharing staff, facilities and suppliers. As we’re all aware however, it’s often difficult to accomplish the right form of collaboration in a sector that increasingly encourages both competition and solidarity.
So what’s the best reason for schools to choose to work together? It’s simple: improved education. There is evidence suggesting that through collaboration, student learning opportunities are widened and the needs of vulnerable learners are addressed more effectively (Howes & Ainscow, 2006). Through the sharing of knowledge and best practice, successful schools as well as those facing challenging circumstances can benefit hugely.
Other than official collaborations such as alliances, federations and trusts there are numerous ways for schools to work together informally. These are often based within personal networks that may meet regularly to discuss progress and share knowledge and theories. These can vary from staff meeting at the pub now and again to have a good vent, to more formal termly meetings with an official agenda. We regularly attend school network events, from conferences to cluster meetings and can’t help but confirm the effectiveness of this communication- at whatever scale it may be.
Although we always enjoy seeing the value of the CPD sessions we provide at these events, it’s also interesting to find out about the other agenda items covered by the delegates themselves. The discussions are varied, covering a broad range subjects such as safe-guarding, catering contracts, solar energy and social media. Through this exchange of information and best practice, it’s clear that nearly every member leaves these meetings having learned something new (as well as having a coffee and a good chat with colleagues who understand the day to day challenges of running a school).
One of the most common topics of discussion was the issue of suppliers and resources. At nearly every meeting, business managers seem to take the opportunity to recommend their favourite suppliers. Because this is so effective, we want to make that process easier and more accessible. Every’s free Suppliers and Connections module allows you to quickly and easily find trusted suppliers as recommended by other local schools. Through this, you and your staff can make notes on suppliers and the service received for the benefit of other schools. It also creates audit trails automatically, ideal for SLA reviews. It’s flexible too- you only share the suppliers and information that you want to.
There is little doubt of the benefits of collaboration between schools. After all, studies have shown that these connections and conversations can lead to improved viability of the schools, increased leadership development opportunities and- most importantly- a richer pupil experience.
We’d love to meet your networking group. To invite us to a meeting, event or to ask about CPD sessions call us on 01138 347346.