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Making a difference

An evaluation of the Bodmin Partnership: “We want to use this partnership as a spark to ignite something bigger!”

Published: 11 June 2022

The Ogden School Partnerships programme offers five years of funding, support, opportunities and teacher CPD to schools that are committed to working together to enhance physics teaching and learning. But is that funding and support making a difference? Do partnerships work as a means to improving the teaching and learning of physics?

The Trust is currently working with evaluation consultant, Dr Alison Rivett to get a better understanding of the objectives, processes and achievements of schools within our partnerships programme. She has been talking to the Bodmin Partnership to look at what they have accomplished over the past 16 months.

“The change that was most strongly identified was the huge increase in the profile of science across the schools and beyond, with the pupils, teachers, senior leadership, and families,” concluded Alison. “All respondents spoke enthusiastically about how the culture of science has changed so positively, as a result of the combination of enrichment activities and professional development enabled by the partnership.”

“Between September and February each year, we invite applications from schools who would like to form an Ogden partnership,” says Wendy Cox, Head of Education at the Trust. “We hope that sharing Alison’s evaluation of our Bodmin Partnership will inspire others to apply. Her report reveals some of the main factors that can contribute to a successful partnership and highlights some of the benefits.”

The Bodmin Partnership

The Bodmin Partnership started in September 2020 under the leadership of Simon Rowe, who wanted to provide more opportunities for the children he teaches at Beacon Ace Academy, part of the Kernow Learning Multi Academy Trust. The Bodmin Partnership now includes eleven of the MAT primary schools, all located in rural, isolated, or deprived parts of Cornwall, where aspirations and prospects can be limited.

What does this successful primary partnership look like?

Each school has appointed children as Science Ambassadors who have taken on the roles enthusiastically: promoting science; speaking in assembly; and sharing science facts and experiments. Take-home ‘Science Sacks’ have also been popular, engaging pupils and families alike in practical activities and raising the status of science outside of school.

Cross-school collaborative events such as a Virtual Science Fair have allowed children to demonstrate their learning and excitement to their families, peers, and teachers. Regular promotion of activities on the schools’ social media networks has informed and connected the wider school community with the variety of things that are taking place.

Whilst there were already good links between the teachers involved, the partnership has provided many more regular opportunities for them to come together, share ideas, good practice and support each other. As Science Subject Leader for the Kernow Learning’s Teaching Hub, Simon is well placed to help them develop their confidence, subject knowledge, and skills.

The schools have all adopted a new “Wow How Now” approach to teaching science, which has been embedded in the curriculum. A cross-MAT review by their Challenge Partner particularly praised the quality and consistency of science teaching and pupils’ engagement with the subject.

What impact has belonging to the Bodmin Partnership had on the schools in it?

Teachers report that more pupils enjoy science, regularly ‘talk like scientists’, say they want to be scientists when they grow up, and are motivated to engage with the subject. All the initiatives have contributed to an enormous boost for the profile of science and broadened children’s aspirations.

“A wider school focus and love of science has been created and we have seen a much higher engagement in the subject across pupils, teachers and parents.”

A rise in several aspects of students’ science capital has also been observed, including increases in science literacy and confidence during lessons, the normalisation of everyday ‘science talk’ amongst children and their families, and greater participation in informal science activities, like the Science Fair.

The various professional development activities have boosted teachers’ confidence in their science teaching. They say they feel more supported by the group and have developed greater self-confidence around leadership of science in their own schools.

“This project brings our schools together and it is so valuable to have regular occasions to talk about science as well as have support whenever it is needed.”

three young pupils completing a science investigation

Partnering through a pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the partnership was just getting underway and plans they had made for in-person collaborative activities were rapidly readjusted to work in the new world of lockdowns, class bubbles and online teaching. Many of the changes, such as having partnership meetings online, running a Science Fair virtually on FlipGrid, and ‘science busking’ on the schools’ social media channels, have proved to be as, if not more, successful than doing them face-to-face. Online activities have allowed many more children, teachers, and families to participate, without space, time, money, or travel limitations.

Other subject leaders have followed the way that Simon has developed science, to improve their own subjects and move out of the shadow of maths and English.

“It’s been a real pleasure to watch the partnership develop across the school, it’s not only had an impact in terms of teaching and learning in science, but for the whole curriculum going forward.”
Kaye Haywood, Headteacher, Beacon Ace Academy 

The other Kernow Learning schools have been so keen to get involved and reap the benefits too, that they have now formed the Falmouth Ogden Partnership. Senior leaders have also committed to organising a Science CPD training day in February for all schools and a whole-MAT science week in the Summer.

Jennie Walker, CEO of Kernow Learning, sums up the value of an Ogden partnership: “Despite the COVID difficulties it has been great. The additional expertise, dedicated leadership time, access to resources and funding really makes a difference.”

What factors help to create a successful partnership?

Simon identifies the key to their success so far as having long term aims.

“The partnership is about much more than just events and activities. We are thinking about what else we can do for sustained outcomes, such as improving the curriculum and upskilling everyone to teach quality science. We want to use this partnership as a spark to ignite something bigger!”
Simon Rowe

Simon’s passion, subject expertise and inspirational leadership has been the foundation of the partnership’s success, but without the extra time, inter-school connections and focus the partnership is bringing, it is unlikely that he would have been able to initiate such significant changes.

High-level practical and strategic support from the MAT’s CEO and senior leadership team has been critical too. From the start, they have shown enthusiasm for the project and recognised the potential benefits to students and staff.

Evaluation report by Dr Alison Rivett
Autumn 2021

a line of pupils sit cross legged on the floor and complete their science work

Five years of funding

A local cluster partnership can apply for up to £2,500 per academic year for the first three years and up to £1,000 in the fourth year for partnership activities to enhance the teaching and learning of physics. A further grant of up to £250 is available as partnerships move into their legacy phase. In the first year, partnership co-ordinators are awarded a time buy-out giving them half a day a week to build relationships across the cluster and establish the partnership.

An established collaboration partnership (ie a MAT) can apply for up to £2,000 per academic year for the first three years and £1,000 in the fourth year for activities to enhance the teaching and learning of physics. The partnership lead is eligible for up to two years of time buy-out to support the partnership

Teachers at all partnership schools can access CPD from Early Years Foundation Stage through to Key Stage 3. Partnerships work across primary and secondary schools to build links for transition and progression and are part of a supportive wider network of Ogden partnerships, advisers and experts.

Learn more about forming a partnership and how to apply

Partnerships normally comprise four or more schools and can be a mix of maintained schools, academies, free schools and independent schools, across the primary and secondary sector. The Trust welcomes applications from any schools in England but are especially keen to work with new partnerships in rural and coastal areas, as well as schools based in areas of social deprivation.

Find out more about our partnership programme. Applications for new partnerships open in September each year.

A boy and girl (with goggles) undertake a science experiment

This article was first published in January 2022.

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