When I was in the sixth form in Sunderland part of our contribution to ‘community cohesion’ involved volunteering and collecting money for charity in town. My volunteering placement took place at Barbara Priestman School http://www.barbara-priestman.org.uk/ (next door to my primary school) and opened my eyes to a different way of life. The shaking of the tin also taught me a little about life but not what I had originally thought. I was amazed as a 17 yr old how many people would ‘look the other way’ rather than chuck a few coppers in my tin.
What I am most looking forward to in September is starting work with Treloar’s School http://www.treloar.org.uk/ and our current Year 10. In July Melissa Farnham the Headteacher of the Treloar’s School (there is also a college on the same site) delivered an amazing assembly which sent ripples around the then Year 9 and the wider community as a whole. She explained the story of some of her year 9 students and the challenges they face and asked if any of our students would like to volunteer at her school. The reaction was amazing.
Students went home and talked about the assembly. (I’m not sure how often that happens when I deliver an assembly!) Students stayed behind at the end of the assembly to volunteer immediately. By the end of the next week we were inundated with volunteers. From a conversation between forward-looking headteachers, who understand the value of partnerships, we now have a 10 week programme involving 30 students for phase 1 of our collaboration. In September the students will receive a health and safety briefing (after returning their consent forms in July !!) from Melissa and then they will start volunteering after school (!) once a week for 10 weeks. Tutors are excited. The Head of Year is excited. The students are excited. I’m excited.
As well as the after school volunteering slots we are also going to run two joint projects. Digital leaders http://digitalleaders.co.uk/ (@DigiLeaders) will involve a group of students from both organisations helping shape the direction of the use of new technologies in both organisations including the implementation of our BYOD initiative. We are also going to enter a joint team into the Young Enterprise Competition http://www.young-enterprise.org.uk/ (@youngenterprise). This will involve the students creating a team including a CEO, board of directors and finance team who will pitch and create a product which will be sold at different points during the year.
As part of the current (twitter based) debate about research led education I am not sure if there has been any independent studies (which are peer reviewed) into this type of work having an impact on overall outcomes. I am however, going to trust my instincts, and wholeheartedly support the new relationship. I think it fits under the banner of developing a ‘school with a soul’ as proposed by the RSA (see image above and http://www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/learning,-cognition-and-creativity/education/reports-and-events/reports/schools-with-soul) and the well-being of all concerned will, in my opinion, be improved. How we will measure it or even if that would serve a purpose can be debated after the students have started working together.
As a primary school student looking over the fence I was not sure what went on in the ‘special’ school next door. Working with Treloar’s I hope our students can bridge that gap and break down our fence. I also hope working together we can help people to not ‘look the other way’.