Four schools were invited by the project team to participate on the basis of: their prior involvement in Opening Minds and similar curriculum innovations; their geographical location in the city; and their intake (one boys’ school, one girls’ school, two mixed schools). Two of the schools were in the process of becoming Academies.
Schools’ attempts to partner with external organisations were subject to significant frustration including: teachers’ lack of time and support for administration and networking; lack of clear contacts in external organisations; no shared or central point for sharing contacts with external partners; the logistical challenges of transporting hundreds of children to different locations, including the associated demands for risk assessment, staff support and transport costs; the costs of visiting external organisations.
A number of practical next steps are recommended for Manchester to build on these pilots:
- Find ways to provide low cost or free transport for schoolchildren.
- Establish a collective database of potential partners and contacts.
Develop guidance/advice for external organisations wanting to work with schools.
- Map existing school-community initiatives.
Develop annual home-school agreements for external visits.
- Create local community ‘funds of knowledge’ resources.
- Promote new forms of professional development partnerships with local organisations.
- Provide continued funding for dissemination and development of the pilots.