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Headmaster’s Blog – ‘Splendid isolation or partnership perfect’

June 22, 2013

In the mid-Nineteenth century Lord Palmerston, British foreign secretary and then Prime Minister, referred to the United Kingdom’s position in the world without a areidlowres34firm ally as one of ‘splendid isolation’. For him and other imperialists this was a position of prestige and strength. Later, as the Twentieth century began, this sense of standing alone in the world became anachronistic, even dangerous, and Britain began to arrange firm alliances with Continental Powers. The phrase ‘splendid isolation’, however, has continued to be used in other ways and contexts and just this week England’s chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, used it to describe some independent schools. He argued that schools such as ours have a moral obligation to help raise standards across the country. Speaking at the Sunday Times Education Festival at Wellington College, he praised private schools which had made strong links with the state sector and accused other private schools of making excuses for not doing more.

At Ballard we firmly believe in making links with the maintained sector which will benefit the education of our children. Just this week our U11 boys and girls have taken part in a mixed tag rugby County tournament as the District winners from a competition we hosted last term for 24 local primary schools. Interaction of this sort helps to improve our competitive and sporting skills but also ensures that some inappropriate social boundaries are challenged. For many years we have jointly arranged a highly successful lecture programme with Highcliffe, a local secondary school. Both schools have shared speakers, resources and expertise to the mutual benefit of pupils and staff who have heard high quality presenters in consequence. A second local school, Arnewood, has since joined this partnership. Moreover, we share a French Exchange with Highcliffe pupils which makes the scheme viable as we combine pupil participants and staff. We are also in the process of joining a National schools’ partnership, which will be locally based, to help with teacher training and in-service training for staff. A partnership of this type helps us to access significant funding for professional development in addition to resources and key personnel.

Whilst I would not go so far as to agree with Sir Michael that we have a ‘moral obligation’ to help raise nationwide standards, I do feel that this is something we do naturally by making local arrangements and links because we believe in the value of high-quality education. We never forget that we are a private school  and that parents choose us because we are independent of the state sector and that they invest in us at great financial cost (amongst much else). This allows us to develop our curriculum and ethos in a way that’s appropriate to our foundation, aims and objectives without interference from ‘the centre’. Nonetheless, we do not wish to be in any sort of ‘splendid isolation’ as this would blinker and  ultimately, stunt our growth as a school. We aim to be wise and selective in the partnerships we make and in the programmes we develop with other schools in both the independent and in the maintained sectors. This helps Ballard become a better school and if we help contribute to the improvement of education and of pupils’ lives in other school settings, private and maintained, then we are delighted!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. luciecowell permalink
    June 30, 2013 8:46 am

    I think it is lovely that Ballard has links with other local schools and it can only bring benefits for everyone! Sue Cowell

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