School partnership: Summit Learning
“…a Trust-wide opportunity for people to get involved in and a great way of showcasing how we can work together cross-phase. The amazing opportunities that come from it have been really powerful.”
Published: 13 February 2024
The Summit Learning Trust Partnership is currently in Year 2, having started formally in September 2022, following some ‘Year 0’ planning activity the previous academic year. The partnership is co-ordinated by secondary science teacher Natasha Peachey at Lyndon School. It is a cross-phase partnership, involving all seven academies that are part of the Summit Learning Trust family. This multi-academy trust (MAT) consists of four primary schools, three secondary (11–16) schools and one sixth-form college, educating almost 8,000 learners. The academies are all located relatively close to each other within Birmingham and Solihull.
Summit Learning Trust has its own Professional Learning Institute (PLI) which co-ordinates formal and informal training and professional development opportunities for all Summit staff members. As part of the Trust’s emphasis on building a shared ethos and learner experience, the creation of the partnership was initiated by Rebecca Lillington, Director of the PLI, in conjunction with Natasha. They saw an opportunity to upskill non-specialist physics teachers and primary science teachers within the Trust as well as offering learners more STEM-related experiences. The formation of the Ogden partnership has provided new and exciting opportunities for cross-academy and cross-phase collaboration, planning and development by colleagues from across the Summit Family.
Cross-phase partnerships within an established collaboration are in a unique situation where they can leverage existing structures for support and add real value. “The Ogden partnership is a Trust-wide opportunity for people to get involved in and a great way of showcasing how we can work together cross–phase. The amazing opportunities that come from it for our learners, for their families, for the teachers, have been really, really powerful.”
Rebecca Lillington, Summit Learning Trust’s PLI Director
What does this successful cross-phase, established collaboration partnership look like?
The partnership has a strong focus on CPD, with teachers enthusiastically taking up the KS3 and Phizzi training opportunities, aided by promotion through the PLI. One of the primary academy teachers has taken responsibility for co-ordinating Phizzi CPD and training sessions have been arranged at different schools, rather than concentrating activity at the hub school.
The partnership has been careful to ensure all activities for learners can be tailored to different age groups. Teachers are empowered to deliver them in their schools at a time and in a format that is most appropriate, and they have the agency to lead on Ogden activity within their academy.
“The partnership works together to collaboratively plan opportunities and are flexible in how activities can be adapted for the different phases.”
Responsibility for organising joint activities is shared as events are held at different schools or circulate around them. Many of these are focused on involving families, parents and carers, as well as being open to all from the local community, which has proved very popular. Senior leaders have been keen to attend, as part of their commitment to modelling positive behaviours to learners, like taking an interest in science.
It’s always really good for parents, carers and other subject teachers to see the importance that is being placed on science and discover what is out there.
Rebecca Lillington, PLI Director
The partnership is now building up a set of event equipment, starting with stargazing boxes, which will be shared between schools. Some academies are trialling activities, such as a Science Ambassador scheme, for one year with a view to others taking them up subsequently.
By applying for grants from other organisations which augment Ogden funding, it has been possible to deliver even more STEM-related activities, such as a mobile planetarium, organised via the partnership structure.
What factors help to create and sustain a partnership of this nature?
A key feature of successful cross-phase partnerships is having several schools from each phase involved, not just one ‘token’ primary or secondary. This ensures there is a critical mass of teachers from each Key Stage to participate in phase-specific training and activities together. It can avoid the situation where a group of primaries are all seeking support and resources from a single secondary school, or a lone primary is left out from activities aimed at older learners. Teachers can have conversations relevant to their own Key Stage at meetings and find common ground, which helps to foster a spirit of collegiality, builds peer support, and encourages the exchange of good practice.
In an ‘established collaboration’ partnership, existing relationships between individual schools are an important consideration. Where these are cooperative, and teachers have a genuine desire to collaborate which is supported by Senior Leaders, it provides a solid foundation for partnership working.
A partnership can benefit immensely from linking into existing MAT structures, such as Summit Learning Trust’s Professional Learning Institute to raise awareness of CPD, or cross-academy Lead Practitioner meetings which are able to feed back the benefits of partnership working to senior members of staff. Likewise, connecting partnership activities to trust-wide initiatives, eg. a focus on literacy or numeracy, also helps to promote involvement and support from colleagues and leaders.
What impact has belonging to an Ogden partnership had on the schools in it?
Connections with other teachers through partnership meetings and events have led to a growing awareness of other phases, helping teachers at all Key Stages understand what their learners need to prepare for and where they have come from.
As a result of the Ogden CPD that they have taken part in, teachers report that they and their colleagues have increased confidence in teaching the curriculum and feel more skilled to use the resources provided. Partnership events have inspired ideas for practical lessons, new ways to approach topics, and shown how physics links to real-life issues and STEM careers, thus enriching classroom teaching.
The partnership co-ordinator has developed their leadership skills; been given more opportunities to promote science across the schools; and delivered their own Ogden-inspired CPD, such as a session on the Physics of Climate Change at a whole-MAT session on sustainability, organised by the PLI.
Students of all ages have undoubtedly enjoyed the various Ogden partnership activities. Through them they have been exposed to new ideas, high-level concepts, and a wide range and diversity of jobs, stretching their knowledge of physics and where it can lead them next. Teachers note that this has helped learners understand the importance of science in their education.
Learners have seen how science is relevant to their lives, and how through science and new technology they can discover so much more about the world and the universe we are part of.
The partnership launched a Rocket Challenge involving all age groups. From EYFS classes experimenting with air-powered mice, to sixth formers launching solid fuel rockets, all were able to enjoy an exciting activity related to their current curriculum learning about forces and motion. Each school ran the challenge at a convenient time for them. Many completed it during British Science Week; others when they were teaching forces; and some as a fun end of term session.
Senior leaders identify a ‘trickle-up’ effect from enrichment events, such as the rocket challenge and planetarium visit. The increased enthusiasm of the children and young people leads to greater interest in lessons and improved outcomes. In turn this can have a positive influence on teachers’ job satisfaction and retention, as does the good professional development they experience.
“We really want to promote science and I think seeing the learners really engage with it does make a difference to colleagues’ job satisfaction.”
Hub school, Deputy Head
Cross-phase partnerships within an established collaboration are in a unique situation where they can leverage existing structures for support and add real value. “The Ogden Partnership is a Trust-wide opportunity for people to get involved in and a great way of showcasing how we can work together cross-phase. The amazing opportunities that come from it for our learners, for their families, for the teachers, have been really, really powerful.”
Rebecca Lillington, Summit Learning Trust’s PLI Director
This case study was produced by evaluation consultant Dr Alison Rivett in 2023/24.