The improvements to professional practice that ISSPs can make are impressive. But they aren't guaranteed. Unless your school has the necessary culture to allow them to thrive, you won't see such dramatic improvements. Below is a checklist of steps that you can take in order to make the most your ISSP.
1. Make sure that you have the capacity to collaborate.
Sharing resources, examples of best-practice and effective teaching approaches, as well as encouraging teacher learning communities across your network, can be time and cost consuming. Thankfully there are numerous innovative technologies on the market, such as video-based CPD platforms, that can make it more easy and time and cost-effective, not to mention secure.
2. Ensure that you have the means to support your partnership.
You may learn that your school qualifies for a grant, so make the most of this if you can. Apply for funding from organisations such as educational charities, local businesses, local benefactors and contributors. This is an important factor in ensuring you are committed to the successful development of your ISSP.
3. Be prepared for change and know how to manage it.
Your school will have to take on new challenges, so be prepared for this and make the necessary arrangements to manage them. You may consider hiring an administrator specifically to take care of meetings and events around ISSP. This then allows your teaching staff to concentrate on delivering valuable partnership activities and focus on improving their practise.
4. Build a wider network of partners that goes beyond just the schools involved.
Local universities, education advisers and consultants, museums and other educational establishments may be able to provide useful expertise that could enhance your ISSP. As an independent school, you can easily facilitate the sharing of resources for everyone’s benefit, so be creative and think outside the box to take advantage of any wider opportunities that arise within the community.
5. Share your successes.
Ensure that you promote the benefits of your ISSP on social media, your website and locally- and encourage your state school partners to do the same! Other schools may draw inspiration from your story if it reaches a wide-enough audience, so tell the local authority,local MP and the council about your partnership. Also, it’s worth noting that Ofsted and the DfE see partnerships as highly valuable and usually expect outstanding schools to have made these kind of connections with other schools.
6. Have an effective approach to CPD.
Effective proffesional development is key to making the most of your partnership. Developing effective CPD often requires careful change management, clear communication and a culture based on trust and openness. An increasing amount of research sites video technology as a game-changer in delivering and cultivating effective, teacher-led professional development - making it a valuable tool.
7. Engage all staff with your ISSP.
All headteachers, senior leaders and governors should be aware of the partnership and the changes that come with it. It’s essential that they commit to the partnership in order to allow teachers’ or pupils’ time for partnership activities.
8. Develop a long-term partnership.
Collaboration works best between schools if there are long term attainable goals. Don't put pressure on staff to see noticeable improvements straight away, but do note that you will see a steady increase in results as the ISSP progresses. Also, it’s worthwhile to think ahead about the long-term sustainability of your partnership: how can you best enable the activities to continue, or resources to be shared?
9. Collect data and measure your ISSP.
Measure the effectiveness of your ISSP, by conducting simple questionnaires with all teachers, pupils and senior leaders involved. Collect data showing how much people have enjoyed or learned from the experience. This will be valuable, as funders may expect to see this information; it also guides planning for the future.
10. Enjoy it!
There are many benefits of running an Independent / State School Partnership: meeting new people, seeing pupils’ engagement increase and learning lots along the way.
Got a tip about how to make the most of an ISSP? Let us know below, or tweet us at @IRIS_Connect.