Partnerships pay price in lost teaching time

5th November 2004 at 00:00
William Farr secondary school has an enviable exam record. More than 80 per cent of pupils left with at least five A*-C grade GCSEs last year. But such success brings increasing demands on its time.

The school in Welton, near Lincoln, is involved in three major school partnerships that aim to replicate its success elsewhere.

Extra staff have been taken on to lighten the load, said Paul Strong, headteacher, as the demands on teachers' time had become excessive.

William Farr is a specialist technology school and a third of the Pounds 176,400 a year it gets from the Government must be spent on partnership work. A technology technician is now employed by the school to work full-time in neighbouring primaries. The school also has leading edge status, recognising its excellent teaching. This brings another pound;60,000 a year from the Government and the expectation that William Farr will work with other schools.

Part of the project involves employing a teacher three days a week to work in neighbouring classrooms. Gifted pupils from other schools are brought into William Farr for special lessons, tying up the school's head of English for at least eight days a term.

The school is also linked to three other comprehensives in Lincolnshire through the Leadership Incentive scheme. The three schools get pound;125,000 a year for four years to boost results - and each pays William Farr pound;5,000 to buy in its expert teaching staff for a number of days.

The school is also considering spreading its healthy schools initiative to feeder primaries. But Mr Strong said there have been concerns that such partnerships will start to impinge on his own 1,400 pupils.

"Last year one or two staff got carried away with all these initiatives they had with other schools and wanted to spend much more time with them than at William Farr," he said.

"That's something senior management had to rein in. Now we have a much better balance. The fact is, we can only take part in these partnership projects so far as our own pupils do not miss out."

He said the projects were only possible with additional money. "One might ask: what's in it for us? I think it is a great leveller. We can learn just as much from schools in challenging circumstances as they can from us. In many ways it brings us into the real world."

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