2 Partnerships with other schools and NGOs
Other schools in your block or state are important resources for you and sources of advice and support. It is very easy to concentrate on the internal challenges of your school, but important to remember that other schools have similar challenges and may have found solutions that could help you. It might be that you could work with other schools to generate learning opportunities and solutions together. For example, you might partner with three other schools in your cluster to generate funds for a set of science lab equipment that rotates round each school in a termly basis, or you might work together to organise an interschool sports meeting that extends the students’ sports curriculum but also provides coaching and organising roles for older students.
Likewise, there will be local voluntary organisations (non-governmental organisations, commonly referred to as NGOs) that you might work with in partnership. These organisations may have alternative ways of doing things to enhance the quality of education in your school and provide access to different teaching and learning resources, methodologies, materials, and sharing of best practices that could benefit your school.
Case Study 2: Leading and learning through mentoring
In some night schools operating in a metro city in India, successful school leaders visit other night schools as mentors to ‘tell their stories’. The purpose is to initiate a quality dialogue among the school leaders so that they begin to share their challenges, successes and strategies with each other. Such an exchange of ideas has been seen as an opportunity to enhance school leadership and improve students’ learning. During the visits, the experienced mentors share their experiences and welcome the mentees back into their schools to observe.
Initial visits focus on listening and sharing ‘stories’, which can be seen as stepping stones to build a positive relationship. The mentor might accompany the mentee for an informal walk around the school, noticing different aspects of the school’s functioning simply by listening and seeing everyday events and circumstances. This is sometimes called a ‘learning walk’, and can provide useful observations for discussion. A shared learning walk might be followed by more formal classroom observations that look at specific teaching and learning practices.
The mentor-mentee visits focus on understanding the practices in the school and helping the mentee to address their challenges. There is no sense of the mentor ‘inspecting’ the mentee or their school, or of putting on a ‘show’. In fact, the mentor also gains from the process, as they are also learning when they visit other schools and through their discussions with their mentee. A good mentorship model is a two-way learning process that leads to improvement of both the schools.
Activity 3: Developing a proposal for a partnership
Case Study 2 offers an example of how a local partnership between schools brings learning and supports the school leaders involved. Now think of your own situation and make a list in your Learning Diary of all the schools and NGOs in your area with whom you might collaborate.
You may want to widen this activity to include others in your school. You could, for example, put up a poster where your staff write the names of other schools and NGOs, and share any connection that they have with those institutions – it can be very helpful if there is already a connection that you can build on.
Once you have your list of possible institutions to partner with, start to think about what your partnership might focus on. Your ideas might well relate to a challenge that you have in your school, such as meeting the needs of low-achieving students, or accessing technology. This challenge might already have been identified – for example, in your school development plan – or may be an opportunity that you have not yet considered. Again, you might want to open this up to your staff team, who could generate some new ideas that may relate to their own skills and interests. For example, a young female teacher may suggest partnering with a school that has a large hall for a dance event where local dance customs are celebrated, opening up the opportunity for the other school to share her skills in exchange for the use of the hall or for getting the students to collaborate across the two schools.
When you have your ideas and possible partners, the next step is to make contact with the other institutions to check their levels of interest in collaborating with your school. They are most likely to want to collaborate if they recognise the gain for themselves and if there is mutual benefit. So you need to present some ideas that will engage their interest and open up the dialogue. Remember, however, that a partnership is two-way, and that you need to agree together how you are going to work together. Presenting your ideas should not preclude the partner coming up with their own ideas and improving your proposal.
Now try to scope one of your possible partnership ideas using the template provided in Resource 2. You will not be able to fill it all in or finalise it on your own, but this process will give you a framework for your discussions when you talk to the potential partner(s), and will also allow you to reflect upon its viability.
You may have thought of lots of ideas for possible partners and areas where you might collaborate. Bear in mind that collaboration and partnerships require time and effort to set them going, so be realistic about how many partnerships you can engage in at any one time. It is also important to remember that while developing a proposal for a partnership by yourself is a useful starting point, these collaborations work best when more people are involved in the scoping and when both parties consider the possibilities and benefits. If this is done, your proposal is more likely to succeed. Partnerships can take up a lot of time and may not be that fruitful unless both parties are clear on the potential outcomes as well as risks and threats.