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Spotlight On: Funded partnerships teachers at RGS Newcastle

Posted on: 10 Dec 2021
Posted by: John Smith

RGS Newcastle has been working with local industry and foundations to fund partnerships teachers. John Smith, director of partnerships at the school, explains how the model is developing in practice.

Back in the heady pre-COVID times of Autumn 2019, we launched our half-termly ‘Bright Sparks’ programme for more able Year 9 mathematicians. Local state schools were invited to bring their keenest students to RGS for a morning of inspiring maths beyond the syllabus. Although we only managed two of these sessions before lockdown, it was clear that the demand was there for stretch, challenge and intervention outreach work in maths. The Reece Foundation, a local charity who focus on raising attainment and aspiration in STEM in the North East, saw this potential and offered to fund our first ‘partnerships teacher’. We quickly saw the need for a physics specialist to join the proposed maths teacher, and our first partnerships teachers were recruited in the Spring of 2021: Tom Williams in physics and Sarah Sharp in maths respectively.


Having consulted with various stakeholders, we went about clarifying what these teachers would offer. Early on, it became clear that these teachers should teach partly in the RGS and partly beyond the walls: this ensured that they were taking some of ‘RGS out’ rather than being seen as a separate entity. We also decided that the emphasis of these educators would be to provide support to teachers and gifted and talented pupils across the region in a way that is complementary to existing teaching. There would be a two-pronged approach to aspiration and attainment, through interactions with students and collaboration with staff. We produced a memorandum of understanding around the roles, making it clear to partner schools what we could offer and where we felt value could be added in supplementing the regular teaching.


Current projects for Tom and Sarah include: CPD for non-specialist teachers; weekly intervention groups in partner schools; CREST-award after-school clubs; a weekly STEP and MAT problem-solving club in partnership with the AMSP; equipment sharing and donations; and curriculum development around embedding further maths GCSE in a partner school. As part of their STEM learning CPD facilitator accreditation, Tom and Sarah will increasingly work on their CPD offering, which has already taken off with Tom working with local teachers and technicians on practical days, where staff were invited as a CPD opportunity alongside the students taking part.


In their work to date, Sarah and Tom have already reached around 300 students, interacting with most of these regularly. They now work with a growing number of schools – around 35 at the last count – and an increasing number of staff, with around 40 staff benefiting from CPD this term alone. The scope for this work is very exciting and we have lots of new initiatives in the pipeline, all of which are built around the Schools Together Partnerships pillars of Sustainability, Impact and Collaboration.


“Just a quick email to say a big thank you to you, Paul the technician, and the lovely sixth formers (Lydia and Hannah). It was a really good day and I can’t believe how much data was collected!”

A science colleague from Berwick Academy commenting on a physics practical day


We have robotics and Latin teachers joining the partnerships team in the coming months with funding streams secured for both, and we hope to add computer science to the team for September 2022: exciting times! While partnerships work may have relied on the good will and ‘slack’ of keen staff in the past, this new model allows for dedicated partnerships time that is not subsidised by fee-paying parents.


We are convinced that this model could be replicated in other schools. It would be great to talk to any schools in membership of the ISC’s constituent associations who are working on similar projects, in order to compare notes and share learnings! Similarly, if any interested directors of partnerships would like to talk about how this model was developed in more detail, feel free to contact me via j.smith@rgs.newcastle.sch.uk. It has been a steep learning curve and we still have much to learn. The proof of concept will be achieved if we manage to secure funding beyond the initial fixed term: this is a challenge we are relishing!


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Tom Williams, physics partnerships teacher, Summer 2021


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A student from Benfield School at one of our STEM events, August 2021

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About John Smith

John Smith is director of partnerships at Royal Grammar School in Newcastle.