Published by Education Executive

Sibford School – a 3-18 independent day and boarding school – and Sibford Gower Endowment School – a state primary school – joined forces in an independent/state school partnership (ISSP). Marie Cahalane speaks to Edward Rossiter, assistant head at Sibford School, and explores the benefits, challenges and opportunities that cross-sector relationships offer

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Located in close proximity to each other in Banbury in Oxfordshire, Sibford School and Sibford Gower Endowment Primary School have always had some links. For Edward Rossiter, assistant head of the junior school at Sibford School, embarking on an independent/state school partnership (ISSP) was an opportunity to expand on existing connections.

The priority was to give students an opportunity to work with those from another school and to give students from Sibford Gower the use of facilities that they would not otherwise have had access to. It was also a good opportunity to increase publicity.

A scientific approach

The criteria for an ISSP application stipulate that participating schools take on projects that are innovative in terms of curriculum or have an ICT focus. Science was chosen as the focus of the Sibford schools ISSP, meeting the criteria by providing the facilities – Sibford School’s state-of-the-art science labs in the senior school science department – and the specialist teachers to enhance learning and creativity for students and teachers.

Two, full-day science workshops were run at Sibford School, attended by students from both schools, one based on physics – which linked to a recent solar eclipse – and one which delved into the world of chemistry. “We wanted to have a clear science focus but we also wanted to ensure that it was about students working together, so we made sure that social, communication and leadership skills, as well as team work, were built-in,” Edward explains. Students worked in groups of two or three children from each school – participating in a variety of team-building exercises – for example, designing aerodynamic rockets that were later launched in a competition.

Mutually beneficial

“Initially we approached Sibford Gower to see if they were interested in taking part and they were as keen as we were,” Edward recalls. At that point, senior leaders from both schools, including Jane O’Sullivan, the head of Sibford Gower, and Edward, met to drill down into the details – working the idea into something that would be mutually beneficial. “This was an important part of the application process,” Edward recalls. “We were all keen to ensure it wasn’t just about us being charitable; we wanted the partnership to be something that children from both schools learned from.”

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