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School partnership: Blyth Valley

Published: 14 August 2020

The Ogden Blyth Valley Partnership was officially established in September 2019. With a focus on physics, it is building on existing links developed through the Blyth Partnership of Schools (BPoS) which is committed to improving outcomes for learners in local schools and has supported the development of the Blyth STEM Hub – an innovative initiative to enable schools to engage with colleges, universities and business to inspire learners around science education. The BPoS works with Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham universities and key employers including the National Research Centre for Offshore and Renewable Energy (Catapult), the Blyth Tall Ship project, Tharsus, Energy Central and the Port of Blyth.

As partnership lead, I have been awarded an Ogden fellowship to help establish and implement our partnership plan. A teacher fellow induction day with other partnership leads provided me with a pertinent, well-planned and insightful day of CPD. Having the time to work collaboratively with colleagues who are so clearly passionate and dedicated to improving the quality of science provision in partnerships up and down the country was genuinely inspiring. We shared examples of best practice from our partnerships and were able to turn the spark of an idea into something concrete and achievable through supportive discussions.

The resources we received as part of the day had an immediate impact on all of my partnership schools. Curriculum progression was clearly mapped out, simple and effective action planning tools helped to organise our intentions clearly and the moderation grid for curriculum coverage was designed so every member of staff could take ownership of curriculum coverage in their class.

Empowering the teachers in our partnership has been at the heart of our first year: up-skilling teachers and increasing their confidence in delivering high-quality hands-on physics to create a positive cascade throughout our schools. Twilight CPD has covered the concept of thinking and working scientifically, and has supported mastery in science; our maths for scientists CPD has helped to embed a cross-curricular approach ensuring consistency in teaching across the disciplines.

Phizzi CPD
I want to make particular reference to the outstanding Phizzi Forces CPD led by our Ogden North East Regional Representative Dr Lorraine Coghill. We made a concerted effort to promote the importance of every school being represented through attendance to this event and it really worked. Not only was this the best attended event of the partnership so far but it was also the moment when it felt like every school saw just how special and important the Ogden Trust partnership was going to be in helping us achieve our long term ambitions for the children of our town.

The levels of engagement and enthusiasm for the teaching of practical, exciting physics lessons at the STEM Hub that day were incredibly high and made me feel proud to be part of a team of such dedicated professionals. The moment, at the end of the day, when I got to see every teacher’s reaction to receiving the free kit boxes filled with high-quality resources for them to take back to their schools will stay with me for a very long time.

Partnership teachers has been overwhelmingly positive about having the opportunity to share high-quality CPD with their colleagues back at school. As a result of this, I am working with all partnership schools to ensure that, moving forward, every teacher who attends training through our Ogden partnership or wider Blyth STEM Hub initiatives will be guaranteed staff meeting time to share what they have found within three weeks of their attendance.

Partnership events
As a partnership we have planned events to encourage girls into physics and to engage families in physics; we have also been looking at how to aid the transition from primary to secondary science. Our partnership planning meetings have been very well attended so far which has allowed us to forge a sense that every school has a voice in our partnership and that we all need to buy into it for it to have the greatest, and most sustainable, impact in the long term.

I took on board the Trust’s advice about making sure there are snacks and refreshments available at all partnership meetings and I am pleased to report this has been very well received by the teachers in Blyth!

So far, I have used these meetings to make decisions related to our action plan, to share resources, to keep partnership members informed of wider strategic planning from The Ogden Trust and to have an ongoing dialogue about the successes and areas for development of our partnership so far.

As our partnership develops over time, I want to encourage other partnership members to use these meetings as an opportunity to share specific aspects of physics teaching that they are passionate about or to discuss approaches to the teaching of physics that they have found to be effective.

I am incredibly proud to be the chosen Ogden fellow of the Blyth partnership and I understand the importance of my role in ensuring all of the schools in my town work together towards the shared goal of improving the teaching of physics and developing the cultural and science capital of our children and families. However, I also understand that this will only ever be fulfilled to its greatest potential if staff from every school in our partnership are encouraged to take the opportunity to work alongside the experts of the Ogden Trust in creating a legacy that will be felt by the children and wider community of our town for generations to come.

Overall, the partnership, and the support offered by the Ogden Trust, has been phenomenal. In what has been a relatively short period of time working together, the impact that the Trust has had on the teachers and children in Blyth has been significant. When I envisage where our partnership will be in a further four years, and even beyond that, I am genuinely excited at the prospect of how big a difference this shared project will make to my town.

Working with the Ogden Trust has already broadened the horizons of the children of our town. We have launched Space Camp initiatives in many of our schools and children at Newsham Primary asked Tim Peake questions about space (after the UK Schools Space Conference was unfortunately cancelled); pupils are being exposed to a much higher quality science education – our children’s science capital and view of themselves as scientists is improving all the time.

I recently found out I have been chosen to be one of the six Ogden Trust members to be invited to take part in the ‘Playing with Protons UK’ course at CERN (cancelled for Summer 2020 but hopefully taking place at a later date). I am relishing the prospect of working with some of the greatest minds on the planet within the field of physics to make particle physics more accessible to children across the country.

As someone who was born and raised in Blyth, I intend to use my experience to show the children of my town that places like CERN aren’t out of reach for them. If they embrace the opportunities that will be presented to them by our partnership, there is no reason why they can’t one day be working as one of the greatest minds in physics at CERN trying to answer some of the most important questions in the universe.

David Gregory
Partnership Co-ordinator (Teacher Fellow 19/20)
Blyth Valley Primary Partnership
Newsham Primary
(May 2020)

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