Links between the University of Oxford and schools in and around the city are set to increase on 26 November when the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, launches the Oxford Education Deanery.
The Oxford Education Deanery will build on links that the University has had with secondary schools through its PGCE teacher training course for the last 25 years. However, this latest development signals an increased commitment from the University to help the city's schools provide a good quality education. It aims to support teachers and share more of the University's resources to promote new learning opportunities for pupils. The Chief Executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership and keynote speaker at the launch event, Charlie Taylor, welcomed the 'nationally significant development in school-university relationships'.
Most of the initiatives undertaken by the Education Deanery will be led by the University's Department of Education, widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Additionally, the Education Deanery's pledge will commit all the University's departments to forging closer links with schools and colleges in the local community.
Initially, the Education Deanery's Memorandum of Agreement will be between the University's Department of Education and seven secondary state-schools, three special schools and a Further Education college, which currently work together as Oxford City Learning. Over the next three to five years, links will be extended to a total of 30 secondary schools, as well as some primary schools in the Oxford area.
The model for the Education Deanery arose out of national and local discussions about steps that UK universities could take to improve educational standards in state sector schools. Elsewhere, some universities have opted to set up free schools, sponsored academies or university technical colleges (UTCs). The University of Oxford believes the Education Deanery distributes the benefit more widely to a large number of schools and further education colleges in and around Oxford.
The Vice-Chancellor will announce that the Education Deanery is committed to sharing more of its research on education with schools, and provide more opportunities for teachers and governors in continuing professional development and direct involvement in new research programmes. It will give pupils greater access to University resources and facilities, and build on efforts by the Oxford Access team to raise the aspirations of less advantaged pupils. The Oxford Hub, a student volunteering organisation, will also play a role, by running mentoring programmes in local schools.
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, said: 'Across the world Oxford is regarded as a seat of learning, so it is appropriate that we make this contribution to the education of schoolchildren living in and around the city. All the University departments will offer a commonwealth of expertise to be shared among teachers and pupils in our local community. We will put more of our resources at their disposal to stimulate learning and give young people new horizons and possibilities.'
The Oxford Education Deanery will be led by Ian Menter, Professor of Teacher Education in the University's Department of Education. He said: 'We see this as an important development of the partnerships that exist between the University and local schools, led from our department. The Education Deanery will enable a greater sharing and involvement of teachers in research on highly relevant topics, such as leadership, teaching styles, attitudes to learning, aspiration and widening participation.'
Katherine Ryan, Head of Matthew Arnold School, one of the first schools to link up with the Education Deanery, and who will also speak at the launch event, said: 'When Oxford City Learning was formed as a partnership in 2009, one of our aims was to capitalise on the wealth of research and knowledge contained within the universities of our city. This opportunity to strengthen and extend the links between Oxford University and secondary schools will enable us to develop teaching and learning across all the schools and colleges in an unprecedented manner. We are excited by the prospect of developing the learning connections across the city and the potential to enrich the education of our students.'
Earlier this year, a new programme, led by Professor Ian Menter, offered training in leadership skills for teachers and governors in 11 of the city's primary schools. The programme came in response to concerns voiced by Oxford City Council about leadership and attainment levels in some of the city's primary schools. A consortium, comprised of the city’s two universities and a group of schools in Oxford and Leicester, won the contract from Oxford City Council to deliver its 'Leadership for Learning' programme. It was rolled out to around 40 staff and governors over 2013, with a second cohort due to start the training programme in January 2014.