Keith Budge on working in partnership

Posted on 06th February 2017

In a recent article for School House magazine, Keith Budge counsels against government’s enthusiasm for the direct transfer of independent sector expertise to the state sector, and argues instead that any institutional learning must be a two-way street.

The Government’s latest Green Paper, Schools that work for everyone, calls for “independent schools to spread their expertise through the state system” for the benefit of “ordinary families”. However, is it reasonable to expect cultures, structures and practices developed around the appetites of, for the most part, privileged children to work for young people for whom education may have rather different connotations?

Of the few new academies sponsored by independent schools, a significant proportion has struggled. Keith argues that however well-intentioned efforts might be on the part of independent schools to partner state schools, the undertaking can never be the simple transplanting of what works well in one educational setting into another. He explains: “Context is all. I would be as wary of prescribing from a distance what would work in any another independent school as I would a state comprehensive.”

Whilst Bedales looks to outside sources for inspiration for change, Keith explains that it does so critically and with an eye to the school’s cultural make up. He says: “In recent years we have commissioned research on the relationship between our approach to teaching and learning and our student’s academic appetite: this is no wholesale importation of ‘best practice’, but rather stimulus for our informed reflection on what we do and how we do it.”

This is not to suggest that efforts on the part of independent schools to help state schools in their efforts to transform themselves are doomed; rather, such arrangements must be bilateral. Keith says: “As educators in our various settings – state or independent, selective or non-selective – there is far more that unites us than divides us, and we have much to learn from each other despite our rather different governance arrangements.

“In the case of Bedales’ contribution, I see further scope to bring our expertise and facilities to bear to support those enriching subjects that we are strengthening – think Art, Design, Drama, Dance and Music - and yet find themselves outside of Ebacc and hence at the bottom of the state school curriculum pile.”

View the full article, by kind permission of School House magazine, here.

Keith Budge writes regular blogs regularly during term time. See his blog here