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Community support: Compassion and service

2017-05-30T11:17:20+00:00 May 30th, 2017|
At BGS we have been working with local schools and charities for some time. It is the right thing to do and we enjoy it (and I suspect that others might enjoy working with us?!). All parties get something out of mucking-in together and children benefit.

I was fortunate to attend a dinner at St Peters School, York recently to celebrate the extensive collaborative work undertaken by schools in that city. The Independent/State School Partnership that is flourishing in York began in in 2007 and has grown steadily such that a wide range of schools operating in very different contexts now share resources, for example premises and equipment, staff expertise and costs.

Ultimately, the aims of @YorkISSP are to provide the best educational opportunities for able and interested young people across the city, foster greater social cohesion and provide interesting professional development for teachers.

At a national level, The Independent/State Schools Partnership Forum meets termly at the Department for Education with the Secretary of State for Schools. This assembly includes representatives from both sectors who actively foster cross-sector working of various kinds. The Chairman of the Independent/State Schools Partnership Forum is Deborah Leek-Bailey OBE who I had the pleasure of meeting in York.

Partnership arrangements between all kinds of schools, colleges and community groups are flourishing across the country and their different characters reflect the settings in which they are working and the objectives they are seeking to achieve.

The Schools Together website maintained by the Independent Schools Council in collaboration with the Department for Education and the Independent/State Schools Partnership provides a useful one-stop shop to find out about some of these partnerships and to gain useful advice for setting up new ones. Bradford Grammar School is one of the case studies that can be found on the Schools Together site.

Our School strongly believes in bringing communities together and helping to provide spaces for conversation. However, we could do more; we would like to.

Collaborative endeavor working with partners locally speaks to the very essence of our understanding of education as a charitable purpose, rooted in English statute since 1601. Elizabethan lawmakers prescribed the charitable works of education for:

“… the relief of aged, impotent, and poor people; the maintenance of sick and maimed soldiers and mariners; schools of learning; free schools and scholars in universities; the repair of bridges, ports, havens, causeways, churches, sea banks, and highways; the education and preferment of orphans; the relief, stock, or maintenance of houses of correction; marriages of poor maids; support, aid, and help of young tradesmen, handicraftsmen and persons decayed…”

The 1601 Act was repealed by Lord McNaughton in 1888, although the notion of the advancement of education as a charitable activity was preserved. Many would posit that all schools across the independent/state border, which is a gross simplification in any case, and including colleagues and universities of various kinds, continue to fit neatly under the umbrella of charitable purpose.

Since the publication of the September 2016 Department for Education Green Paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’ it has been clear that the Conservative Government is seeking to create the conditions for increased ‘private’ school sponsorship, a term that covers many kinds of relationship, and building of ‘state’ ones.

The concern is that coercion, if that is what this is, doesn’t make for surefooted, trusting and lasting marriages between schools. In any event the Green Paper has now been worked up into a full bloodied Conservative manifesto pledge which reads thus:

“We will work with the Independent Schools Council to ensure that at least 100 leading independent schools become involved in academy sponsorship or the founding of free schools in the state system, keeping open the option of changing the tax status of independent schools if progress is not made.”

There’s carrot and stick here, and quite a big stick too. Collaboration and partnerships are welcomed by the independent sector, by BGS, they live at the heart of our foundations and the Independent Schools Council Manifesto, released for election season, makes the point that 88% of ISC schools are already involved in indie/state partnerships.

The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) response to the conservative party pledge was appropriate, measured and spoke of cooperation and opportunity. Mike Buchannan, HMC Chair and Head of Ashford School said:

“HMC welcomes the Prime Minister’s emphasis on extending a world-class education to all children and seeking to ensure that they have the opportunity to progress in society on the basis of their talents and effort. These same aims underpin the extensive support our schools already offer to state school pupils, including free lessons, extra-curricular activities, facilities and the sharing of best practice in areas such as teenage well-being and responsible use of technology.

Independent schools also open their doors to less well-off families with over a million pounds a day spent on help with fees. HMC schools, working with the Independent Schools Council, have already offered to extend this significant support of state education.

This will include, where possible, involvement in Academies and Free Schools. Independent schools are part of the solution to social mobility, not the problem. We look forward to working with any future Government to help improve education for children wherever they go to school”.

At BGS we remain characteristically optimistic about what the future holds. The national narrative about partnerships ebbs and flows and we reflect on what this might mean for us. Increased cooperation between educators and community groups can only be good for Bradford as elsewhere. How it is best achieved remains a moot point. Carrot or stick?

Regardless, our school values, of which ‘service’ is one, recognises ‘that we have a responsibility to share our time and talents and make a difference to the lives of others. We strive to play our role locally and nationally. We understand that by giving to others we enrich our own lives’. So, in a really rather essential sense, it will be business as usual in the long term.

Visit bradfordgrammar.com/happiness to find out more.

“Regardless, our school values, of which ‘service’ is one, recognises ‘that we have a responsibility to share our time and talents and make a difference to the lives of others. We strive to play our role locally and nationally.

We understand that by giving to others we enrich our own lives’. So, in a really rather essential sense, it will be business as usual in the long term.”

Simon Hinchliffe, Headmaster

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