One before Eton

Working Together: Promoting Partnership across the Independent and State sectors’, 17th Nov 2011

This is a summary of a short speech given at an evening event in London hosted by the recruitment company Thewlis Graham Associates.  Tony Little, Headmaster of Eton, spoke next.

Wellington College set up Wellington Academy Trust, with £2million endowment fund (privately financed) in order to open Wellington Academy in 2009.  ‘Friendly take-over’ of Wiltshire’s lowest performing and highest excluding comprehensive.  Further £32million of state funding for a complete new build for 1150 students (including sixth form of 250).  Includes: £5million boarding house for 100, £1million CCF centre, refurbished and extended community sports facilities.  New build opened April 2011, boarding and CCF September 2011, campus complete Dec 2011.  Within a year of opening, on 2 measures Wiltshire’s highest performing non-selective school  and lowest excluding.

Formal structure of partnership

College have powers to appoint majority of governors to Academy board.  Governors are all also directors and trustees.   There is a higher level of ‘members’ of the trust (all WC appointees).  Strategy group oversees partnership (2 x Principals, investor, 2 academy governors), Joint operating committee organises annual planning of joint events (Chaired by me, with 3 staff from each school) across all areas of school – staff training, joint student events, staff shadowing in boarding.  Activities based on higher level strategy for joint working and academy needs.

Examples of joint working

Joint musicals – We Will Rock You and Oliver! – performed at the academy and the college.  Staff training – departments sharing expertise and resources.   Student from academy attending business seminars at college.  Joint student training at both sites – eg restorative justice, mentoring.

The biggest influence is the state of mind of being independent, determining your own destiny and having extremely high expectations.  Wellington College has opened the eyes many of our students to how the ‘other half lives’ – and they like what they see, both in terms of the types of students (who are quite similar in many respects,  even though more affluent) and in the opportunities and self-confidence which they exhibit.

Issues with the partnership from academy perspective

In the context of what is considered a successful partnership, with much good will on both sides:  Wellington College is such a different world it can at times feel unreal.  There is such an imbalance of power between the two schools.  Certain attitudinal differences exist between SLT, staff and students.  There is some lack of understanding on their behalf about how to drive school improvement in the state system, from a low standing start.  It is difficult to compare experience in an extremely successful well-oiled machine with a start-up, which is what we were, certainly at the very beginning.  Some of our staff are concerned about being patronised.  We have attracted significant national interest and publicity – some getting ahead of itself in terms of where the academy is.

The link below is the write up of the whole evening:

Working Together Report


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