Collaboration and Partnerships
Underneath this country’s current crisis lie deep political, cultural and attitudinal divisions that sit at our core. The London School of Economics has identified the UK as one of the most unequal societies in Europe and predicted that the country’s acute territorial differences are only likely to multiply in the coming years. To Brexit or not to Brexit is, indeed, the question and I am not sure that we will see a resolution any time soon. And if this wasn’t destabilising enough, the very existence of private education is now under scrutiny with the Labour Against Private Schools campaign - #abolisheton. Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, is promising the abolition of both charitable status and tax exemptions as well as a cap on university admissions from private schools, together with the redistribution of endowments, properties and investments. Three or four years ago it would have been difficult to believe that such policies would be adopted by a mainstream party but times have changed; the only certainty in these uncertain times is that we can expect the unexpected.
The press is now full of articles and cartoons portraying the upper-class elite, the archetypal ‘toffs’ with foppish hair attending private schools. Taking a look around the KGS community, I can’t relate to these ridiculous portrayals. At KGS we are proud to engender a culture of collaboration and social responsibility. Yes, we encourage our students to be ambitious, in whatever they do, and we set them the challenge to make a difference. Aspiring to be a responsible and giving community is at the heart of what we do.
Only last week our Head of Wellbeing and Head of PSHE welcomed 30 state primary school teachers for a training session on Statutory Relationship and Sex Education so that they were more confident to navigate their way through the delivery of the Department for Education’s new legislation. Going forward, we will offer them a series of practical workshops which will look at the delivery of age-appropriate material.
Last week also saw the launch of the KGS ‘Is There a Doctor in the House?’ higher education initiative, offered to any Year 12 student in the borough wishing to study Medicine at university. The course will involve an introductory session providing an overview of some of the key areas to consider when applying for Medicine, followed by three practical sessions focusing on medical entrance tests, entrance process and interview. We already have more than 60 students from 10 local state schools signed up.
Much of the exceptional work carried out by students and staff on a regular basis goes under the radar. Our students volunteer in primary schools where they help support literacy by listening to pupils read and, at Bedelsford Special School, others provide one-to-one support to pupils with some quite complex needs. Others volunteer with people experiencing homelessness, either at Joel Community Project, where they form part of the community for the residents of the shelter, or at St Stephen's Church in Twickenham, cooking meals for vulnerable members of the local area. A large number of our students also choose to volunteer with charities supporting disabled young people and adults, and at ECL in Walton, SOS/Inspire or Richmond Mencap, they help the members to access sports, music or social activities. Others visit Wingham Court Care Home, where they read to residents with brain injuries. Finally, some choose to devise and run holiday workshops at Kingston Museum for the borough's children. Of course, our students benefit enormously from the opportunity to volunteer, enhancing skills such as self-reliance, empathy and compassion, as they develop a real sense of the need for social justice and inclusion. Volunteering is an important step into the community and into the unknown, which often becomes a lifelong habit of reaching out to others. As one volunteer put it this year, "going there each week made me think a lot about what I can give to other people – and how we can all use our time to do something for someone else."
Last year the KGS community was involved in over 50 outreach/partnership projects involving thousands of local students and hundreds of local teachers. We continue to raise significant sums of money through donations to our bursary schemes and we give back to the community at many different levels through volunteering, specialist support and community work. As a school, we place great value on creating opportunities for collaboration and partnership which in turn leads to a richer and more diverse experience for all involved. It is through our partnership activity that we become more closely connected as a community. In these turbulent times, the importance of this cannot be overstated.