Schools commissioner supports Dorchester schools innovation
ENGLAND'S Schools Commissioner Dr Elizabeth Sidwell has pledged to help Dorchester Area Schools Partnership (DASP) raise standards for thousands of children from their earliest days in the classroom through to getting jobs.
At Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, Dr Sidwell met headteachers from first, middle, Prep and secondary schools in DASP, then she visited Sunninghill Prep School and Puddletown Middle School.
She was "very excited" about the thinking and innovation behind the DASP model, said Andrew Roberts-Wray, headteacher of Sunninghill Prep School.
Mr Roberts-Wray added: "It's a fantastic leap forward for DASP to have Dr Sidwell's support. With her help, we'll be able to fast-track some changes towards better, broader education for all in this area."
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Dr Sidwell has been at the forefront of education in England for more than 20 years. She was a head teacher and founder and chief executive of a federation of three academies taking children all the way through from reception to Sixth Form. As Schools Commissioner, her official role is 'to raise standards, tackle under-performance and champion the growth of academies, academy sponsors and Free Schools'.
At Dr Sidwell's Dorchester meetings, three objectives were agreed:
• The Department for Education will help first schools, who want to become academies, to do so.
• Dr Sidwell will work with DASP member schools to offer advice and support to failing schools or those with specific difficulties from outside the Dorchester area.
• To develop DASP as a model of state/independent partnership, to become a community education partnership, including local businesses. DASP will be a force for raising standards for children from the early Reception years, right through to apprenticeships and employment.
DASP's vision is one of equal partnership between state and private schools, giving opportunities to pupils, teachers, governors and parents not available to schools working in isolation.
Dr Sidwell's visit follows a mini-summit held at Sunninghill Prep School in November, at which DASP members met Andrew McCully, Acting Director General (Infrastructure & Funding) at the Department for Education, Cabinet minister and West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, and David Hanson, Chief Executive of IAPS (Independent Association of Preparatory Schools).
That meeting recognised DASP as a pioneering model of national significance, a status re-confirmed by Dr Sidwell's visit.
Future plans for DASP including forging closer ties with local businesses. A 'skills for life' programme would aim to offer young people real workplace skills, and in return they would be guaranteed a job interview in future with a local business.