Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

A lasting impression


The Kingswood Partnership, which consists Twhich of six secondary schools and the City of Bristol College, will offer five of the diploma lines in 2008 and ten diplomas lines by 2009. Through BTECs and other qualifications, we are in effect already offering the first 14 diploma lines and will migrate these to diplomas as they come in.

The partnership has worked together for a number of years, gaining 14-19 Pathfinder status in January 2003. Since that time, it has developed strong collaborative arrangements, a common 14-19 curriculum framework and a rigorous Quality Assurance Framework.

In September 2008, we will have over 450 students across the partnership following diploma courses. This is in addition to the 480 14-16 students involved in off-site education and the 680 16-19 students studying AS and A2 courses on sites other than their own.

The amount of dedicated support a partnership needs will, of course, depend on the size and structure of the partnership. We have invested heavily in this, building up a dedicated core team, funded by the partnership, comprising a co-ordinator, an assistant co-ordinator, a business links development manager, an off-site student support manager and an e-learning development manager.

Partnership also requires a strong infrastructure and serious commitment from staff. Headteachers and the vice principal of the City of Bristol College meet monthly for half a day. Deputies and college co-ordinators meet for half a day a fortnight. There are additional regular meetings for finance managers, data managers, the quality assurance cross-partnership team, examination officers and subject groups.

Specifically for the diplomas, the partnership has 14 task groups, one for each line of learning, which are working to develop the professional capacity of staff who will be delivering the diplomas.

Curriculum framework

In order to deliver the diploma lines, the partnership has developed a common curriculum framework.

This is based upon an agreed day for the principal diploma learning: Monday for year 10 and Tuesday for year 11. For some diploma lines, such as construction which is offered in two of the centres, this means students travelling to other institutions. In other lines, such as creative and media, each institution runs its own programme but all take place on the same day.

A further half day is allocated for additional or specialised learning with a half day given to generic learning combined with a 'personal development curriculum'.

The remainder of the students' timetable consists of GCSE provision, ensuring six or seven GCSE courses in addition to diploma courses. Level 3 courses integrate into the half day blocked timetable alongside AS and A2 courses. As more lines of learning become available, the post-16 blocking will need to be adjusted.

Through our full-time business links manager, the partnership has developed a detailed 'menu' of options for business collaboration. In the past we found that businesses were willing to get involved in principle but couldn't see how they could contribute.

By presenting them with half a dozen menu options in the form of a diagram - from offering work experience to sending an employee into a school to work with a group, to structuring a long-term work experience - it has proved a very valuable support for diploma development.

Key Stage 3

To prepare students for diploma courses, we felt that Key Stage 3 would need to provide a different learning experience. Therefore the personal development curriculum (PDC) was designed for years 7 and 8 to strengthen continuity and progression by building directly on Key Stage 2 learning experiences.

The PDC is scheduled in two flexible half-day timetable blocks each week. The students' teacher for the PDC is also their form tutor. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, literacy, thinking, social and emotional skills permeate all aspects of learning and are explored in a wide range of global contexts. The teaching and learning style encourages critical reflection.

Learning is across three broad areas: communication, social responsibility and internationalism. Each learning cycle has a descriptive 'narrative' that provides the big picture through which students plan their learning journey. Tasks are deliberately open-ended and involve collaboration and peer mentoring.

Pre-diploma curriculum

The Sir Bernard Lovell School has also piloted a revised curriculum for year 9 which provides 16 per cent of curriculum time for a personal development curriculum, as a bridge between years 7 and 8 and the 14-19 diploma courses.

This pilot, or pre-diploma course, provides an insight into diploma methodology and creates an opportunity for students to experience a number of the diploma lines. The programme is based upon three semesters, each with two afternoons a week, approximately 12 weeks long.

The focus is on creative and media disciplines in the first semester; IT, business and global citizenship in the second; and industry awareness in the third semester.

A specialist information, advice and guidance team provides additional support so that all students have a good understanding of the diploma lines and the changed pedagogy necessary for extended study.

Online learning platform

Much of the innovation in learning and teaching which is required for the diplomas has been achieved through a managed online learning platform which serves everyone in the partnership. It has taken five years of development work to reach this level of e-capacity, but the result has been a significant contribution to personalised, flexible and independent learning.

E-learning has brought about new ways of connecting with other teachers, providers and learners, such as the development of podcasts for students by employers and teaching staff.

Because diploma-based teaching is likely to be increasingly delivered by teams of professionals located in different schools, the effective exchange of up-to-date assessment information will be needed to support student progress. The partnership has agreed a common approach to assessment post-16, and is now looking at pre-16.

Quality assurance

One of the biggest issues for partnerships, especially in diploma delivery, is how to quality assure provision across sites. Over the last year, on behalf of QCA, the partnership has developed a common quality assurance framework.

A set of principles underpin the framework and there is public, explicit commitment to quality and the continuous improvement of outcomes and methods.

The outcomes are student-focused, contributions come from all within the organisations, and common, continued professional learning for all staff is promoted.

A cross partnership quality assurance team is testing the quality assurance processes and gathering evidence to show how the partnership's common standards are being met.

David Turrell is the headteacher of The Sir Bernard Lovell School and the joint chair of the Kingswood Partnership. The Kingswood Partnership works in collaboration with the International Learning and Research Centre.

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