Spotlight On: The pillars of Alleyn’s School’s partnerships
Ben Jones, director of partnerships at Alleyn’s School, reflects on why his school’s partnerships are symbiotic, sustainable, and specific.
A mile away from Alleyn’s School, printed on a railway bridge are the words of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Surely a rallying-call for partnerships, this sentiment has been at the heart of many of our schools since their foundations and is a reminder for us during ISC School Partnerships Week to use what we have been given; our human, financial, and physical resources to share opportunities and access with and for the communities around us. And as our pupils build connections and collaborate with others, as their confidence is built and their perspectives are expanded, their desire and ability to contribute to the global society is surely increased.
We believe there are four keys to successful partnerships, the first of which is what makes them so exciting: good partnerships are symbiotic. The skills developed, the relationships formed and the experiences gained through interaction with varied partnerships are as enriching and horizon-expanding for our pupils and teachers as they are for our partners. The second key is that partnerships are sustainable, with clear organisational structures in place, roles defined, expectations clear and funding in place. And this leads to the third: partnerships need to be specific with clear objectives co-designed by each partner with targeted outcomes for targeted groups. And finally, partnerships will self-evaluate, with each partner being critical about whether they meet the three previous criteria, and how they measure up to our joint school values.
At Alleyn’s we have developed and are expanding a coherent partnership programme as a critical part of every pupil's Alleyn's education. Each week students from Alleyn’s engage in an array of volunteering and outreach activities including helping at a community fridge, supporting primary school children in their reading, socialising with the elderly, providing food to the homeless, helping at after-school clubs and arranging fundraising activities for school charities. Furthermore, through timetabled enrichment sessions, our Year 12 students visit a number of local primary schools having prepared practical lessons in science, art, animation, cookery, drama and music.
‘Volunteering [at a community fridge] has been a big eye-opener for me…we should all learn to appreciate the things we have.’ - A student in Year 11
And such partnership work is not restricted to school-time here at Alleyn’s: Saturday mornings see fifty Year 5 students from local schools attend a fun and engaging maths extension sessions programme supported by twenty-five Year 11 mentors. Tuesday evenings give us a chance to welcome over 100 Year 4 and Year 5 pupils from local primary schools to the Alleyn’s Academy for a wide range of sporting activities, enthusiastically supported by our Year 10, 11 and 12 student helpers. And each summer around 100 pupils from Year 3, 4 and 5, identified by their primary schools, join us for our enriching Alleyn’s Summer School programme where they enjoy a range of fun subjects and extra-curricular activities all brilliantly supported by our Year 9 mentors.
‘One pupil, a school refuser, completely loved it – he was transformed.’ - A member of staff at a local primary school talking about the Alleyn’s Summer School
Through the excellent Southwark Schools’ Learning Partnership (SSLP) we are able to collaborate with a network of state and independent schools, promoting educational opportunities for pupils and staff including engaging speaker programmes, shared student activities and talks, teacher training events, university preparation and cross-school student-voice projects. Similarly, we are inspired by the deep personal and professional enrichment experienced by those involved in our various global partnerships, as our pupils collaborate with peers in Japan, Ukraine, Sierra Leonne, South Africa and most recently, the United States.
‘Please put us at the top of your list!’ - A head of a local primary school when asked about our partnership offering.
We believe that partnership programmes – whatever their scale – support our communities, aid social mobility and open up access to our schools. And as our pupils and staff collaborate with others in targeted, enriching and fun projects the mutual benefits are vast. We at Alleyn’s – like all members of the ISC - want to go far and we firmly believe that in order to do so we must, along with with our network of brilliant community partners, go together.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”