Gallery: Suffolk primary school pupils enjoy a London link-up with counterparts in Hackney
The key to the recommendations contained in the “No School An Island” report published by the RSA today is a proposal for Suffolk to unite with a successful London borough.
The link, which has already started to be implemented, will help education leaders, teachers, governors and parents benefit from the strategies and approaches taken by Hackney – the borough chosen for the partnership.
Hackney has seen its pupils make significant progress above the national level of improvement for both Key Stage 2 exams (SATs) and GCSEs.
While performance in Suffolk has also improved, it has not done so at the same rate at other areas – forcing the county down the Key Stage 2 and GCSE league tables.
The RSA report says that in order to “stimulate new thinking and create the impetus for more radical change”, Suffolk should negotiate a long-term strategic partnership with an “educationally improving east London borough”, to be jointly funded by both local authorities and through external funding.
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Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s head of education, said the authority was “very positive” about the proposed partnership with Hackney and had already started to implement the link.
“This isn’t about replicating exactly what Hackney has done because that wouldn’t necessarily work in Suffolk,” she said. “We know that much can be achieved from closer working with them and that fresh ideas will come from partnerships like this.”
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Students and teachers from three Suffolk schools – Halifax Primary School in Ipswich, Great Whelnetham Primary School and the Priory School, a special school in Bury St Edmunds – visited Holy Trinity Primary School in Hackney yesterday.
Halifax headteacher Anna Hennell James said teachers could always learn from spending time with colleagues from other communities.
She said: “All schools can benefit from the experience of working and collaborating with people who aren’t in your immediate locality.
“There’s a great deal to be said for working in partnership with local schools, which we do, and our cluster works incredibly closely together in south-west Ipswich, but there’s a different kind of benefit to working further a field with people who have similar but not exactly the same challenges who might be doing something different, and it’s about learning from that.” Sian Davies, executive principal of the five-school Primary Advantage Federation, which includes Holy Trinity, said forming links between schools and local authorities could help tackle the issues surrounding isolation.
She said: “We’re not looking to share ideas and top tips – we’re looking at systems and structures. The schools in Hackney aren’t all the same – our five schools are all different.
“There are some principles and systems they use that make the schools work really, really well but each school is charged with serving its community so they have to adapt and be different.
“In working in partnership with Suffolk I think we would be able to share the systems, the principles, the ideas of how you work together effectively – the sorts of things you can do that make a difference.”
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