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Celebrating partnerships during the pandemic

Posted on: 17 Nov 2020
Posted by: Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson, chief executive of the ISC, reflects on the ways state and independent school partnerships are enduring, adapting and growing, despite the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ISC Partnerships Week 2020 is our second annual celebration of cross-sector partnership working and brings welcome relief from news of lockdown and graphics describing the path of COVID-19.


Across the week of 16 November, we encourage schools to join us on social media posting news of meaningful partnerships - the ISC is grateful to partnership schools on behalf of all who benefit from these collaborations. We are also grateful for your efforts to publicise this excellent work and thereby inspire and encourage more.


This year’s newly published Celebrating Partnerships booklet provides a snapshot of cross-sector partnership working across the UK. From partnerships supporting academic opportunities to university entrance, the creative arts, sport and governance, collaboration can involve large numbers of pupils or smaller groups. There is something for every size of school, whatever the capacity or capability: each school has strengths and we always have something to learn from our neighbours. There are even activities led by pupils themselves: working with peers of the same age or mentoring younger children.


Despite the pandemic, partnerships have continued across 2020 and the impact of schools collaborating in the interests of all pupils is clear to see – offering online tuition, sharing remote learning expertise and resources, running summer holiday programmes for partner schools and developing ongoing ‘catch-up’ initiatives. We have witnessed a wealth of community partnerships this year; independent schools playing their part producing PPE, providing beds for key workers who needed accommodation away from their families, donating to foodbanks and running deliveries and concerts for those sheltering or isolating.


Across the country, schools are engaging with their social mission to support communities and local schools, enhancing opportunities in a whole host of ways and bringing companionship and kindness where it is most needed.


As Baroness Berridge says in the 2020 Celebrating Partnerships booklet:


“As we move forward from the disruption caused by coronavirus… we need partnerships now more than ever.

“The power of collaboration has become clear in recent months. Partnerships help us to see past sector divides; they focus our minds on what works best for children and their learning. During this crisis, we’ve seen schools – both independent and state – working together to educate our children even in the most difficult of circumstances. We’ve seen a desire to reach out from one school to another to help in whatever way possible, be it through sharing curriculum materials, lesson plans or other resources. Above all, we’ve seen things that would be impossible for a single school suddenly become possible when collaborating with others.”


We anticipate a return to face-to-face activities by next year’s partnerships week and a world no longer constrained by social distancing. Despite the many difficulties faced by schools, families and communities this year, the number of partnership projects on www.schoolstogether.org continues to rise, demonstrating a genuine commitment to social mission and desire to enhance educational opportunities. Thank you.

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About Julie Robinson

Julie Robinson is chief executive at ISC.

Before becoming ISC chief executive, Julie was a teacher, housemistress and head of Ardingly College Junior School and then Vinehall Prep School in Sussex. After these headships, she was education and training director for the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools (IAPS). She is governor of a state school and an independent school.