Who: University of Gloucestershire, White City Community Group, Gloucester Deanery, the Office of Public Management, Gloucestershire Local Authority, govenors and parents of the Finlay Community
What: The project aimed to create a new school
Why: To provide a community learning space
The University of Gloucestershire, in tandem with the White City Community Group, Gloucester Deanery, the Office of Public Management (OPM), Gloucestershire Local Authority, as well as the staff, governors and parents of Finlay community, founded the Learning Community Partnership, which in 2007 bid for the opportunity to set up a new school, under the regulations of New School Competition (NSC) Bids. This school was to be opened following the closure of Finlay Road school, and was the first in the country to go through this process. It has been a great success, having recently been commended by Schools Minister Jim Knight for having the best 'value added' SATS results in Gloucestershire.
The University of Gloucestershire was approached in April 2008 by its local authority, on behalf of the other potential partners, to consider becoming involved in the bid and to take a leading role. They held a series of meetings to establish the partnership and agree the vision, strategy and relevant documentation, before submitting the bid that summer.
As there was no precedent for the partnership either legally or practically, questions were raised about the wisdom of investing in the initiative, as there was no guarantee of success. However, the bid was accepted in October 2008. In order for the school to open formally on January 1st 2009, the partnership had to work with the local authority to set up a temporary governing body, as well as devise and populate the staffing structure. In June 2009, a formal opening ceremony was conducted.
The Learning Community Partnership now acts as an advisory body for other participants in the NSC bidding, being the first group in the country to go through the process successfully. The project's legacy is primarily in the impact on the local learning community, but also for the university, in the knowledge that they displayed the necessary courage in accepting the project.
Highlights from the project
The best thing about the project was the close partnership that developed between the school and the University as part of the Partnership. Distinctive elements of this partnership include:
- Workshops for Gifted and Talented children in maths
- Development of 'University' style modules for Years 5 and 6 as part of the school curriculum
- Creation of a homework club for 'vulnerable' pupils operated by trained student mentors
- Strategic leadership within the Governing Body
- The incorporation of the school within the university's teacher training partnership
- Contributions from some of the staff to the latter's taught course
Commissioning Support Programme
The OPM is one of the members of the Government's Commissioning Support Programme (CSP), the aim of which is to help support Children's Trusts. It has found that there is a scarcity of information available on practice-focused research and guidance on how to undertake a number of commissioning activities. Its aim is to plug that gap by producing a practice-focused case study.
For one of these case studies, in focusing on the New Schools Competition as a prime example of commissioning in practice, the CSP chose to look at Finlay, because it was felt that due to the good balance of community engagement, Local Authority support and the University's involvement in the process, it would be a great example.
A key part of the CSP involves developing resources to provide robust, reliable and credible research information, which will help to support commissioners: these resources are now being collected in a comprehensive 'resource bank'.
- Read the relevant policy documentation carefully
- Make full use of the Governments Commissioning Support Programme (CSP)
- Be clear about the legal underpinning of your project, such as matters of land transfer
- Critically assess elements of the project such as staffing and structures at the start