Spotlight On: Lessons learned from the first year of Teddies Collaborates
Rachel Moffatt, partnerships manager at St Edward’s School, Oxford, reflects on the success of Teddies Collaborates, a service programme that sees the school’s entire Lower Sixth take part in weekly partnership placements.
During Partnerships Week, as we all reflect on the ways in which we engage with communities beyond our school gates, we have taken the opportunity to look at lessons learned from the first year of Teddies Collaborates: our fully integrated year-round partnership programme involving our entire Lower Sixth (i.e. 180 Year 12 pupils).
Thanks to the unwavering support of our governors and senior management team, teaching and auxiliary colleagues, and the appointment of a new part-time partnerships coordinator (Courtney O’Keefe) alongside my existing role as partnerships manager, we have been able to deliver this ambitious programme across the city of Oxford.
Teddies Collaborates involves carving out 90 minutes a week from the school timetable for every pupil in our Lower Sixth to dedicate to a weekly partnership placement, sustained over the course of the full academic year. The intention is to make meaningful relationships, contributions and experiences for all involved: between the partner organisations and St Edward’s; between partnership staff and our pupils and, most importantly, between our pupils and the people they meet through their placement activity.
At the outset, the partnerships team worked with pupils to help identify the most suitable placements from a wide range of local charities, schools and community organisations. Some of these partners were already known to the school, for example Northern House Academy School, and some were new partners, such as the Ukrainian Friendship Centre and the Museum of Oxford. Pupils then undertook six weeks of relevant training - from first aid to safeguarding - before starting their placement.
In 2022/23, 180 Lower Sixth pupils worked each week with over 20 local charities, schools and community organisations, giving 5,670 hours of volunteer time. They built positive relationships and made a constructive contribution to the partnership organisations, furthering their purpose.
Examples of weekly placements included support for primary school readers through ARCh Oxfordshire, engaging with activities involving elderly residents at The Lady Nuffield Home, and taking responsibility for updating the Oxfam Superstore online shop.
Feedback throughout the year from the pupils and placement hosts has helped to shape this programme, and has provided useful lessons for designing training and placements in Year 2. In addition, we have been able to learn from the findings identified in the Impact Report compiled by ImpactEd, which we commissioned.
Finally, we have discovered a great deal about running Teddies Collaborates along the way: how labour-intensive the compliance paperwork process is ahead of placements; which training courses are most effective in pupil preparation; and alternative approaches to fine-tuning transport logistics. As a result, one of the outcomes in 2023/24 is that we have upped the number of school bicycles from 16 to 36 to maximise pedal power!
At St Edward’s, our city location provides many varied opportunities for our young people to learn from and contribute to our wider Oxford community. We place an emphasis on inspiring and celebrating service, both to the school community and to the local community: this is one of the school’s founding principles, and through programmes such as Teddies Collaborates it remains just as relevant today.
I would welcome hearing from colleagues at fellow ISC schools who would like to share their partnership experiences with peers such as Courtney and me, and would be interested to learn more about how we have set up and run the Teddies Collaborates programme.