As a twin I have never really been alone. I was born with a partner in crime and shared mum and dad right from the start.
My sister and I are fraternal twins- non-identical, we barely look related these days, I also claim to be taller and wiser. Funnily enough our teachers really struggled to tell us apart, a challenge made even harder because mum chose to dress us in identical clothing. Our junior teacher had great idea however and made us wear different coloured ribbons.
My sister was good at maths and hated writing, I loved writing and struggled with maths. You can probably already guess what we conspired to do. Yes, we swapped our coloured ribbons regularly and conveniently throughout the day, to capitalise on individual talents. We delighted in confusing ‘Miss’ but had to become adept at answering to each other’s name. (Sorry mum.)
Looking back through my highly refined teacher lens I have one question:
How on earth did we get away with it?
Was she myopic or did she simply never look up from her desk?
I have learned therefore that there is power in partnership. Together anything is possible. Unity is indeed strength. As a school leader I have taken this life lesson beyond the classroom door. I believe that schools cannot work effectively in isolation. We have a moral purpose to support one another and we can only be as strong as our weakest link.
When I was the headteacher of a small school in rural Lancashire nearly twenty years ago, I developed and led the first ‘Network Learning Community’ of seven primaries around a single secondary provision. We were sponsored by the then, newly formed, ‘National College of School Leadership’. Despite our individual limitations our children benefitted enormously from the learning we offered collaboratively across our schools.
Learning together and system leadership are not new ideas and their power lies in endless possibilities.
At High Hazels we benefit from a number of important partnerships not least of which is the formal learning collaboration between our Nursery Infant and Junior Schools. Two schools, historically working in ‘splendid isolation’ now operate from day to day as a single primary academy with innovative governance arrangements. We share staff expertise and resources.
Beyond our school gates High Hazels Academy works actively within one of the most dynamic learning partnerships in South Yorkshire. SSELP, (Sheffield South East learning Partnership) comprises eighteen schools and have worked together since 2000 as an education action zone. We now share resources and expertise at a strategic level. Working together has enabled our schools to have the highest rate of progress over time in the city across all key stages. Together we commission action research, curriculum enrichment and staff training including the development of ‘school direct teacher training’.
Underpinning the future of High Hazels as a thriving and successful academy is the security of our new partnership with United Learning, our sponsor. United Learning facilitate national dialogue, challenge and support. One of the largest and most successful academy trusts, their expertise is priceless because they work with schools in every key stage and across both state and independent sectors. They are ambitious for every learner in the group.
We are not alone at High Hazels Academy – and in this new world of shrinking Local Authorities, partnership really is the answer.