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Independent & state schools collaborate to improve primary science
In an innovative private-state school partnership, Bolton School Girls’ Division has been working with Prestolee Primary School and Prestolee School Centre for Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) to improve the quality of teaching and learning in science through an integrated approach incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM). The focus was to develop trainee teachers’ con dence and subject knowledge when delivering scienti c enquiry alongside the arts in order to develop children’s enthusiasm and interest in the subject.
Building on a strong relationship forged through the local Ogden Trust Partnership, the two schools developed a project focussing on STEAM issues and devising creative ways of teaching the topic of Forces across the curriculum.
After initial work at Bolton School, which involved input from Science and Art teachers, the trainee teachers then delivered sessions for all Year 1-5 classes at Prestolee, which were infused with the Forces theme. Work ranged from simple push and pull mechanisms with
Year 1 pupils to investigation of weight, gravity, air resistance and  oating and sinking with older children. The project culminated with year groups presenting their work to an assembly of peers, parents and teachers.
Miss Hincks, Headmistress of Bolton School Girls’ Division, said: “Conscious that there
is a shortage of primary teachers who are considered STEM specialists, Prestolee and ourselves felt this would be a good area in which to provide a development opportunity for Initial Teacher Training students. The Girls’ Division was delighted to provide subject specialist expertise. As an independent school with a philanthropic ethos at the core of its values, we were delighted to work with such a renowned ITT provider as Prestolee and to learn from colleagues in the state sector who have experience of delivering excellence in this area.”
Girls’ Division Physics teacher Mr Ickringill said: “Our qualitative research shows that the project has built the con dence and competence of ITT students to deliver STEM subjects in a manner that leads to effective and enjoyable learning for pupils. We are also con dent they can now
deliver lessons which are engaging and effective and offer real world context. We have also sought to teach that creativity within STEM subjects is imperative and just as important as in the Arts. Our intention now is to disseminate knowledge about the session more widely so that others can replicate or develop what we have done.
“Looking at the bigger picture, a workforce with skills in the STEM subjects is critically important to the UK economy. Nationally, there is a shortage of pupils continuing to study STEM subjects at A-Level and beyond and we need to do something to arrest that trend. There is a current lack of ITT institutions who provide high quality training in practical science. We have tried to instill in the trainees the need to investigate and experiment in practical work rather than teaching didactically through closed instructions. Lessons should involve discussion and exploration in order to maintain pupils’ attention. If we can imbue young children with a love of STEM subjects then they will carry this with them into secondary school and beyond.”
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28 Independent Schools Magazine
Letter to the Editor
VAT idea a throwback to the 80’s
Labour’s proposal to put VAT on school fees, analysed by Henry Briggs in the May issue, is a throwback to the 1980s. It is worth recalling that, when I was National Director of the Independent Schools Information Service, Anthony Lester QC (now Lord Lester of Herne Hill) and David Pannick (now Lord Pannick QC) were asked in 1987 and again in 1991 to give legal opinions on the feasibility of a British government imposing VAT on school fees, removing charitable status from independent schools or even abolishing them.
They concluded that a UK government could not do any of these things without breaching European Community (now EU) law and the European Convention on Human Rights. Before their opinions were published, the Labour party had threatened to take these measures against independent schools. But the Lester/Pannick view has never been challenged so far as I am aware.
It is unlikely that Labour will ever be in a position to impose such policies, but it is the case that our membership of the European Union and compliance with the Convention has been an important protection for independent schools.
David Woodhead
National Director, Independent Schools Information Service 1985-2004; Deputy General Secretary, Independent Schools Council 1998-2004
Leatherhead, Surrey

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