School partnership a success

The new executive head teacher of two Church of England Schools, Drake’s in East Budleigh and Otterton, has hailed the first half-term in charge of both a success.

Carron Saunders, the head teacher of 95-strong pupil Drake’s School since 2005, took on the joint role after the head of Otterton School, Pat Fowler, retired at the end of last term.

However, both schools retain their own teachers, governors and are still inspected separately.

“It is not a merger, and not one school on two sites,” she said. “It is the outcome of many years of collaboration between the two schools and has come about because of Pat’s retirement.

“We were looking at ensuring both schools stayed viable, making them more efficient without compromising their structure and improving the educational opportunities for all the children.”

Mrs Saunders, who is now responsible for 170 children, divides her time equally between the two - and, after just two months, has already seen the benefits.

One example she gives is that Mrs Fowler was an accomplished musician but, when she left, it left a void.

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But with the partnership, Otterton children can now benefit from the knowledge of a Drakes’ teacher who is also a talented musician and ‘tap’ into that resource.

She said: “Teachers and support staff are already benefitting from a pooling of their expertise, as they begin to plan together and feed off each others’ areas of specialism in their teaching,” she said.

“In effect, we have doubled the expertise in each school.”

She added: “The positive aspects of closer collaboration are already emerging. “Children have benefitted on projects like the pc-based learning platform Merlin - the children have twice as many other pupils to collaborate with on projects.

“Another example of this is children joining together to enjoy after school clubs such as the choir, and supporting each other at events as in the schools’ cycle race.”

Mrs Saunders does not have a teaching commitment under the new arrangements, instead using her expertise to support children with booster classes or additional classes for gifted children.

This allows her more time to spend with parents and to attend to her duties as head teacher.

“This is not about shuttling children from one school to another; each school retains their unique qualities, ethos and character.

“It’s about taking advantage of shared opportunities that will benefit both.

“It has been really gratifying using the strengths of each school to enhance the development of both.

“The parents have been really supportive and their understanding has been extremely helpful.”