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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

Collaboration between schools and HE institutions – a force for good in education

‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.’ - Helen Keller

As someone who works in schools and in higher education, one of the biggest disappointments I encounter is the apparent lack of appreciation among some educators for the links between those working in early years settings, schools, further education and higher education. Often, the issues faced at each level can cross age and stage boundaries, and there is undoubtedly much that we can all learn from each other regardless of who we teach. So when I hear or read comments that effectively create a ‘them and us’ dynamic, I wonder why we don’t challenge these views more robustly, as they simply serve to fragment the profession rather than encourage unity.

Professional learning

Collaborations between schools and higher education institutions can be incredibly powerful, cost-effective ways of furthering knowledge and skills in both directions. The Higher Education Academy has explored this issue, and continues to do so to help enhance the experience of pupils and students. It’s in a good position to support collaborations between schools and HE; not only so that students arrive at university having made appropriate course choices, but also so that staff in both sectors can develop mutual understanding of how each sector operates. With regard to professional learning for transitions, Paul Yates, Consultant in Academic Practice at the Higher Education Academy, emphasises the need for mutual respect between staff in all ages and phases of education. He feels that this can ultimately enhance student transition, employability, widening access, inclusion, retention and social mobility among others. This should be of interest to all educators, regardless of where they teach. ‘Mutual respect between university staff and school staff is important to allow a shared understanding of the issues related to this transition, leading to effective solutions in both sectors,’ Paul explains. ‘Links between schools and universities for professional learning purposes have been established through the HEA’s Tackling Transitions events and are being developed as part of the HEA’s current workstream on student transitions.’

Time for collaboration

It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that educators can learn from each other, or that all educational establishments share common ground, and not just with regard to transitions. Likewise, it shouldn’t be beyond our capabilities to develop more collaborations on a local and national level which seek to address issues specific to the contexts in which we work. If ever I hear wedges being driven between different sectors of education, I will continue to chip away at such unhelpful attitudes. Together we can achieve so much, but in conflict the quality of education on offer can only suffer. If we continue to promote disconnection between different sectors of the education profession, we just might be scoring a particularly devastating own goal. So, just for starters, let’s focus on any number of these ideas:

  • Get talking – explore mutuality
  • Share facilities between sectors
  • Explore closer relationships
  • Set up collaborative teacher exchanges – teach in each other’s settings
  • Examine how research-based and practice-based experience can both add to the knowledge base in all settings

 

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