In 2007 Thomas Knyvett College in Ashford found itself in serious difficulties - in Ofsted Special Measures the longest in the country.
When Surrey County Council and the Department for Education asked Howard of Effingham School to help them turn things around, The not-for-profit, charitable Howard Partnership was born.
In just 9 working weeks, the school was taken out of Special Measures. By December 2013 Ofsted judged the school to be 'Good' with 'Outstanding' leadership and management.
This didn't happen by chance. It was as a result of one of our founding principles - a bespoke and collaborative approach to partnership working and improving teaching and learning. Over the last decade, school-to-school support has become accepted firmly established as best practice in the delivery of school improvement.
Bringing out the best
Second-rate schooling can consign young people to a limited life experience. They really only have one shot at a good education, so we cannot afford to get it wrong. In all our Partnership schools, we are about helping our students achieve more than they ever thought they could - truly 'bringing out the best'. Although it's not about being an exam factory, it is a fact that good educational qualifications ensure better chances in life.
Increasing life-chances is the principle that drives everything we do within all our schools, both primary and secondary.
The Partnership ethos
The idea of partnerships like ours is not only to provide a support network for struggling schools. Our focus is on pro-actively increasing standards in each school, offering better opportunities for every one of our students.
Schools in a successful partnership are more likely to perform better. Whilst there are no quick fixes, being in a partnership means there are fantastic professional development opportunities and a support framework in place - giving all schools every chance to develop and improve.
How we do things
- We do not impose a rigid set of ideas - each school retains its own identity. Some academy chains require schools to conform to 'their way' of doing things. We are different - we learn just as much from our schools as they learn from us. We take each challenge as it comes and we understand that what works for one school doesn't always work for another.
- We take it slow and steady, because that's what works. Many academy chains and school federations can expand too quickly. The Howard Partnership started small in 2007 and still only has four schools- meaning that time can be devoted to improving education in each. Our approach is thorough, not 'pile them high'. Our two secondary, and two primary schools are all state-funded Surrey Schools. Our partner schools asked to join THPT because of the challenges they faced. Working in partnership, those challenges have been faced together, and all our schools are making good progress.
- We focus on good leadership. Competition for good school leaders is fierce. Schools in a partnership like ours have access to a deeper pool of talent, meaning they are more likely to attract and grow the leaders they need.
- We help share the operational responsibilities, freeing up money and time for education. Economies of scale for resources and services are one of the ways in which our schools are benefitting. With the business side handled by the experienced professionals within The Partnership, school leaders can focus on teaching and learning and teachers are free to spend more time in the classroom - where they should be.
All these are a means to the most important end: bringing out the best in every child and aiming for excellence in everything we do.