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Universities step in to help schools improve
OXFORD University is spearheading a new drive to raise standards at schools in some of the city’s most disadvantaged areas.
A historic town-gown initiative is being launched today to allow under-performing Oxford schools to benefit from the educational expertise on their doorstep.
It will see dozens of headteachers, senior teachers and chairmen of governors from 11 primary schools “serving the most disadvantaged communities” working with some of the most experienced educational leaders in the country.
The Leadership for Learning programme will provide training days and regular workshops, along with coaching and mentoring to improve leadership in schools.
But within minutes of the joint initiative being announced, the local education authority Oxfordshire County Council released details of its own scheme – Education Excellence in Oxfordshire, which will initially work with 10 primary and secondary schools in the county to share best practice.
The moves come after a period of poor results in national tests. In 2010 Oxford’s seven-year-olds performed worst in England at Key Stage One.
The situation has persuaded the city council to involve the universities and invest £300,000 over three years, despite the fact that schools are County Hall’s responsibility.
The schools participating are: Bayards Hill in Barton; Church Cowley St James, Cutteslowe, East Oxford; Larkrise, in East Oxford; Pegasus, Orchard Meadow and Windale (three schools forming the new Blackbird Leys Academy), St Francis in Cowley; St John Fisher in Littlemore; and Wood Farm.
Parents will be invited to take part in seminars each year.
City council leader Bob Price said: “By doing this, we will support teachers to improve the life chances of children in Oxford living in disadvantaged areas, and this will have a very positive impact on the Oxford economy, bringing benefits to all residents.”
The director of the programme is Ian Menter, professor of teacher education at Oxford University. He said: “‘Every day, primary teachers are faced with a myriad of challenges: for example, working more closely with parents or supporting bilingual learners for whom English is an additional language.
“How to tackle these issues is not always easy or straightforward. We hope teachers and governors will be able to tap into a pool of expertise.”
David Lewin, headteacher of Wood Farm Primary School, said: “We’re very pleased with what Ofsted has had to say about us but we’re always keen to learn from experts in the field.”
Melinda Tilley, the county council’s cabinet member for education, said: “It was good to see results improve so much at Key Stage One and Key Stage Two last year. The city council has briefed us on its campaign and we hope it will complement our campaign to improve standards in Oxfordshire.”
The 10 founding schools in the Education Excellence in Oxfordshire scheme are:
- Appleton Primary School
- Chipping Norton School
- Frank Wise School, Banbury
- King Alfred’s Academy, School
- Ladygrove Park Primary School, Didcot
- Lord Williams’s School, Thame
- Matthew Arnold School, Cumnor Hill
- Rush Common School, Abingdon
- Cherwell School, Oxford
- Bartholomew School, Eynsham
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