I’m Head of Bootham School, a medium-sized Quaker day and boarding school: and I have no spare capacity to think about sponsoring an Academy. But I’ve worked with brilliant teachers in state schools; I have a social conscience; and York – a northern, working-class city with a medieval heart – is a city with a strong identity.
So, six years ago I instigated, with the local authority, and fellow Heads, the York Independent State School Partnership. It’s become a much bigger success than any of us dared to imagine – because it is a real partnership of equals. We celebrate the knowledge, commitment, strengths and skills of the best teachers, whoever employs them, and work together, state, independent and now academies, to improve the life-chances of the students across our city.
An annual series of master-classes, to which over 3000 students have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm, forms the core of the project. Releasing teachers from the constraints of the curriculum to follow their own academic passions – dystopias, ‘colour’, madness, archaeology, robotics – has rekindled their enthusiasm for teaching and learning. There’s an annual training event for teachers; we run day conferences for students on global issues and leadership. Local business leaders act as ‘Dragons’ (and mentors) for cross-sector teams of students who design and pitch a York-based sustainable business idea. Students and parents appreciate the conference on getting ‘to the top’ – to top universities and into high status professions, supported by the Universities of York and Oxford and their alumni.
Bootham and St Peter’s are now running twilight Latin GCSE classes for state-school students with no other access to the subject; there’s Russian and Thinking Skills at A level, too. The Partnership has even evolved an international dimension with work on national identity shared with a school in Germany and a project on ‘Our City’ involving a group of students in Ekaterinburg, Russia.
I cannot divert resources from a hard-pressed school to spawn an Academy; I’m not going to try to enhance my pension by applying to run one. I’m supporting Heads and teachers in the belief that together, as equals, our talents go further.
Jonathan Taylor, Head, Bootham School, York