By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools
Collaboration and working in partnership with other people and organisations have been strong themes here. After all, the school’s founding motto, ‘Work of Each for Weal of All’, puts communal effort and therefore collaboration at its core. A willingness to look outwards and connect with others beyond the school gates has likewise been a strong feature. Here is a wonderful poster advertising the school’s fundraising efforts for the Russian Famine in 1922.
This strong thread in the Bedales ethos, our Global Awareness programme and the range of partnerships – local, national and international – that we have are in my mind as I go to Eton to be one of the keynote speakers at the start of their Inspiring School Partnerships conference on Wednesday. Speaking alongside John Weeks, head of the London Academy of Excellence (sixth form college set up in 2012 by a number of independent schools) and Professor Bill Lucas (who has researched independent-state school partnerships), we sketch out the territory.
In short, the independent sector is doing lots of very good work in partnership with maintained sector schools, but there is more we want to do and, whatever the general election result, more we will be strongly encouraged to do.
I talk about some of the potential traps in our relationship with the maintained sector – a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach from central government will not work; neither will anything that smacks of a condescension or tokenism. Initiatives based on shared, identified need and mutual professional enthusiasm will work. I talk briefly about the connection that was made through Geoff Barton and I getting to know each other and each other’s schools (King Edward VI, Bury St Edmunds) through spending time in each place. The result ranged from increased mutual understanding and appreciation of the two sectors to the Liberating Leaders conference we ran here a year ago. Geoff has now moved on from headmastering and is General Secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL). Our friendship continues and we will bump into each other increasingly next year as the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) works closely with ASCL and all HMC heads are ASCL members.
What about the future potential for new partnerships at the Bedales Schools? Lots, is the answer. We want to do more and we will do more. It will be one of our priorities next year.