It has, of course, been an exceptional year in education – as it has been in all sectors across the world. Schools have been faced with multiple challenges in order to deliver an effective education alongside keeping children, students and staff as safe as possible. How has this been achieved and how are schools embracing the future as many restrictions are lifted and education returns to near normality?
The Nene Valley Partnership, a small multi-academy trust comprising of Bozeat Community Primary School, Irchester Community Primary School and Wollaston Secondary School, believes the answer lies in partnership, a quest for excellence and shared aspirations.
CEO of the Nene Valley Partnership, James Birkett, explained:
“During the period of restrictions and lockdowns, our mission was to provide the best education possible, in the safest way possible. This required a completely new way of working and learning, encompassing remote methods of online delivery, working with bubble systems in schools and, of course, running a full contact tracing and testing service for much of the academic year. All of this as well as ensuring a great educational experience and running a full qualifications series without external exams. Delivery of this mission demanded a great deal of resilience from staff, parents and students but also demonstrated the creativity, innovation and collaboration of our school communities.”
Working together as the Nene Valley Partnership also enabled all three schools to cope with the national educational turbulence through mutual support and collaboration, even as self-isolations and absence wreaked havoc elsewhere. When one school was unable to open, children needing additional support and children of key workers were educated at another partnership school. When staff were isolating or unwell, others stepped in, working across schools, taking on additional responsibilities and ensuring that children continued to enjoy the benefits of a great education. Despite the cancellation of transition days, Year 6 children were still able to enjoy a series of curricular enrichment activities, all remaining safely within their existing bubbles.
James Birkett believes that it is only through being part of a small, local educational partnership that such successes have been achieved.
“The Nene Valley Partnership is proud to be a small, local and community-centred educational trust,” he said. “This means that we are able to support one another on a practical level, in a rapid and effective way. We know the impact of this work, not least in the amazing attendance figures at our schools throughout the pandemic. As the national attendance rate slipped to 77% in July 2021, in all of our schools attendance remained above 94%.”
The Nene Valley Partnership rightly takes great pride in how its schools have worked together so successfully during the pandemic, but now that restrictions have been lifted, it is the present and the future which is so exciting for children, staff and parents across all three schools. With the removal of the bubble system, the corridors are again filled with a community of different year groups, specialist resources and teaching spaces can be enjoyed by all and the full range of practical drama, dance, music, science and art, design and technology is once again at the heart of an inspiring curriculum.
Gareth Rust, Head of School at Bozeat Community Primary School, has been reflecting on an excellent start to the new academic year. He said:
“It has been fantastic to see the children return to school so enthusiastically. The easing of restrictions within school allows for the children to interact with each other in ways that were just not possible before. The children have fully embraced the social and academic opportunities available and are enjoying the full range of school activities
that we are able offer. Looking ahead, this year offers many exciting opportunities to continue to work together as a trust, developing the links and support networks that will really help us to collaborate and move forward together.”
Whilst enjoying the fruits of a great start to term, the Nene Valley Partnership is also planning to further strengthen and develop during this year, with collaboration and a quest for excellence driving work across all three schools.
Julia Alison, Headteacher of Irchester Community Primary School, is a Local Leader of Education and plays a significant role in ensuring that the trust plays a key role in local educational improvement.
As a small trust, it is vitally important that the Nene Valley Partnership is able to develop best practice with work alongside the regional Maths and English hubs and Irchester Community Primary School also have their own specialist Science Provision – Lab 13, all of which ensures that children across the trust benefit from specialist expertise across the curriculum.
Leading teacher professional development is also a key focus, where the NVP works with a range of institutions and universities to lead initial teacher education. Successful schools are founded on successful staff at all levels and the partnership works with a range of local and national providers to ensure that their current and future workforce are skilled and equipped for delivering excellence in the classroom as well as realising their own career ambitions.
Educational recovery is, of course, a key national priority in the months and years ahead, and the Nene Valley Partnership is clear on how it will approach this.
James Birkett said:
“We are fortunate to have an incredible team of staff, enthusiastic and determined children and students, as well as supportive and engaged parents. After such a challenging 18 months, working in partnership as a trust, and together with our communities,we will ensure that we fall back in love with education, embrace a rich and inspiring curriculum, provide the additional support to those who need it and achieve the very best educational outcomes possible for every child and every student.”
If you would like to know more about the Nene Valley Partnership contact firstname.lastname@example.org