Independent Dragon School to sponsor three Blackbird Leys primaries

Windale Primary School headteacher Maureen Thompson pictured with pupils, from left, Shay Nyles, 10, Lavinia St Clair, nine, and Chloe Harvey, eight

Windale Primary School headteacher Maureen Thompson pictured with pupils, from left, Shay Nyles, 10, Lavinia St Clair, nine, and Chloe Harvey, eight

First published in Education Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by

ONE of Oxford’s leading independent schools is to sponsor three Blackbird Leys primaries.

The Dragon School, in Bardwell Road, will be the lead sponsor in a newly formed multi-academy trust with all three of the estate’s primaries, Orchard Meadow, Windale and Pegasus, set to come under its umbrella.

While there will be no financial investment from the Dragon – former pupils of which include Harry Potter actress Emma Watson, comic Hugh Laurie and poet Sir John Betjeman – the three Leys schools will be able to use the school’s science, art, music and sporting facilities, while Dragon teaching staff will develop initiatives within the new academies.

Dragon School chairman of governors Chris Jones said: “It is a big responsibility and quite a daunting thing to take on but we feel we, together with our partners, can really help to build on what these schools are already achieving.

“We would not claim what we can contribute is based on a close knowledge of those communities, it is based on a commitment that we have to great teaching and great learning.”

Family Links and the educational charity Hamilton Trust will also be co-sponsors and the intention is for the schools to become academies in April 2013.

The Dragon was approached by the Department for Education and the local authority and asked to consider sponsoring an academy.

It has been working with Pegasus for a number of years on various initiatives, along with six other state schools in and around Oxford, and Mr Jones described it as a “natural step” to consider working with the other Leys schools.

The news comes shortly after Windale Primary School was given a glowing Ofsted report and rated “good”.

Both Orchard Meadow and Windale were previously told they would have to become academies after failing to meet Government floor standards at Key Stage 2.

Windale headteacher Maureen Thompson said: “I am disappointed the school is being forced into becoming an academy because very clearly the trends were all upwards, but the decision has been made and we have to work together to move forward so children in our community get the best possible chances.

“One of the most important things is that we work together and help each other, and we have lots of skills we can share.”

In its most recent Ofsted, good and outstanding teaching was highlighted and Mrs Thompson’s drive, determination and motivation of staff were praised.

Orchard Meadow School is currently in special measures, while Pegasus has a good rating.

No-one was yesterday available for comment from either school.

Mr Jones added: “A lot of our enthusiasm for this comes from what has been an enormously productive relationship with Pegasus now over several years.

“It’s not about a bunch of people from the private sector marching in and saying we know how to do this better, it’s about various charities helping schools by setting up a trust and allowing those schools the freedom that being an academy offers them. All those schools have achieved a lot, often under quite difficult circumstances

“It’s our job to try and help them do more, not do it for them.”

  • THE Dragon School was founded by a group of Oxford University dons in 1877 for their own children.

It is a fee-paying independent day and boarding school for four to 13 year olds. Fees cost £8,340 per term for boarding and £5,830 per term for day pupils.

Parents can register their children any time from birth onwards, with preference given to children of staff, former pupils and siblings.

Those joining the school aged six or older need to sit an assessment. There are between 15 and 20 children per class.

  • Windale Primary School opened in 1995. There are 335 pupils on roll, and of those, one in four have special needs. The proportion of those who speak English as an additional language and those eligible for the pupil premium are above national averages.
  • Orchard Meadow Primary School went into special measures in September this year following an inspection in June. The school has 296 pupils, with an above average proportion of those with special needs or disabilities.
  • Pegasus is the largest of the three schools, with 445 pupils. A very high percentage are eligible for free school meals and the proportion of those with special needs and or disabilities is well above average.

 

Comments (4)

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9:43am Thu 25 Oct 12

train passenger says...

Funny business. Independent schools are free from taxation due to their charity status and are given other privileges by the planning system. They have also been one of the main drivers of inequality in this country - they are self-reproducing and deeply embedded in systems of wealth and power; note how many decision-makers in all walks of life share similar backgrounds. Now with low-cost initiatives like this they are even offered a chance to show how much they 'care' about the community.
And no, I'm not envious, I could afford to send my offspring to one if I wanted to. And no, I'm not against differentiation on the basis of achievement or against achievement itself, it just seems to me that if you would start differentiating at a later age (say a few years prior to university) and differentiate through the state system, rather than through private institutions that are provided with benefits out of the public purse, you'd get both a much more cohesive and a more economically productive society. Not going to happen any time soon though. Powers that be and all of that.
Funny business. Independent schools are free from taxation due to their charity status and are given other privileges by the planning system. They have also been one of the main drivers of inequality in this country - they are self-reproducing and deeply embedded in systems of wealth and power; note how many decision-makers in all walks of life share similar backgrounds. Now with low-cost initiatives like this they are even offered a chance to show how much they 'care' about the community. And no, I'm not envious, I could afford to send my offspring to one if I wanted to. And no, I'm not against differentiation on the basis of achievement or against achievement itself, it just seems to me that if you would start differentiating at a later age (say a few years prior to university) and differentiate through the state system, rather than through private institutions that are provided with benefits out of the public purse, you'd get both a much more cohesive and a more economically productive society. Not going to happen any time soon though. Powers that be and all of that. train passenger
  • Score: 0

12:40pm Thu 25 Oct 12

King Joke says...

I'm not against academic differentiation either, but independent schools don't differentiate very much on academic terms, but principally on financial ones. THey won't turn away a thick kid whose parents have pots of cash, whereas a bright poor kid has to compete for a bursary.

It is this social differentiation which is so divisive.

Academic differentiation should come with subject-setting, which is perfectly possible in the state system and does happen in many state schools. So if you're good at French and rubbish at Maths you get put in the appropriate sets. You still get to play football with the more/less able kids at lunchtime and walk home with them. It is this social cohesion which is destroyed by perpetuating the independent sector. Banding within schools is socially divisive and different sectors is even worse.
I'm not against academic differentiation either, but independent schools don't differentiate very much on academic terms, but principally on financial ones. THey won't turn away a thick kid whose parents have pots of cash, whereas a bright poor kid has to compete for a bursary. It is this social differentiation which is so divisive. Academic differentiation should come with subject-setting, which is perfectly possible in the state system and does happen in many state schools. So if you're good at French and rubbish at Maths you get put in the appropriate sets. You still get to play football with the more/less able kids at lunchtime and walk home with them. It is this social cohesion which is destroyed by perpetuating the independent sector. Banding within schools is socially divisive and different sectors is even worse. King Joke
  • Score: 0

6:38pm Thu 25 Oct 12

DoctorBob says...

The things people do to keep their favorable tax status.
The things people do to keep their favorable tax status. DoctorBob
  • Score: -1

7:14am Fri 9 Nov 12

Educational observer says...

Educational observer says - we live in a mixed economy where parents have a choice to pay their taxes AND pay school fees because they believe strongly that good education and health are the best investments they can make for their children. The Comprehensive system has failed many of our children, so if we want to maintain freedom of choice within our society, a genuine way of redressing the inequalities is to do precisely what The Dragon is proposing, in offering a partnership role that benefits the wider community. The Independent sector saves the Govt over £1 bn annually and over 90% of its schools already have some partnership arrangements with maintained school, albeit not at 'academy' level.
Educational observer says - we live in a mixed economy where parents have a choice to pay their taxes AND pay school fees because they believe strongly that good education and health are the best investments they can make for their children. The Comprehensive system has failed many of our children, so if we want to maintain freedom of choice within our society, a genuine way of redressing the inequalities is to do precisely what The Dragon is proposing, in offering a partnership role that benefits the wider community. The Independent sector saves the Govt over £1 bn annually and over 90% of its schools already have some partnership arrangements with maintained school, albeit not at 'academy' level. Educational observer
  • Score: 0

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