Page 28 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Outreach boxes:
a collaborative partnership
The key to success in a school outreach programme is strong, meaningful and trusting relationships with all the local schools, teachers and heads. To that end Sevenoaks School, Kent, where outreach is  ourishing, works closely with a partnership of 29 primary maintained schools, plus many others not in the partnership. There is a shared understanding that it is the collective efforts of all involved to provide for every child, ensuring that opportunity is given to everyone and no potential is missed.
Among the initiatives is an Outreach Box of resources. Graeme Lawrie, Director of Innovation and Outreach, Sevenoaks School, describes the scheme...
 Sevenoaks is fortunate in having many resources that are not available in the primary state sector, including dedicated state-of-the-art teaching spaces for different disciplines. It is
also fortunate in its teachers, who are expert in their subjects, wholehearted educators and enthusiastic about collaborating with other schools.
This shared passion has blossomed over the last few years, with Sevenoaks offering the partnership opportunities previously unavailable. We facilitate meetings and training for heads, deputy heads, middle leaders, NQTs and subject specialists, as well as an annual primary conference and bespoke events. Over the last year we have run over 350 events, all completely free of charge to these schools,  nanced by a generous sponsor.
Our focus is upon maximising
the outreach activities on offer, and ensuring that the quality of activities and services is in line with the expectations of our local schools.
Spending time with visiting teachers during these events has allowed us to conduct a lot of
research into the provision we offer, and it became obvious
that while our events, spaces and facilities are well received, we
were beginning to send resources out of our school more and more frequently to be borrowed by local teachers.
Schools were using our telescopes, data loggers, Biology models, cameras and other equipment every week, and for the equipment that needed a specialist we were also supplying teachers. We soon found ourselves fully booked, repairing damaged equipment, and being asked for more materials speci c to primary levels. This
was not sustainable, and so the Outreach Box scheme was born.
This concept was simple, effective and straightforward to execute. Our sponsor was very enthusiastic about the proposal and we surveyed schools to  nd out
what resources they would like to see. The response was huge and included a wish for more expensive materials that were unachievable in an ordinary school budget.
The beauty of the system we developed was that we could buy one set of resources and put them on a booking system, so that
every two weeks they moved to another school. We decided to run a six-month trial and were given a classroom pack of BBC Micro:bits by Microsoft. We bought  ve digital microscopes with screens and used our school laser cutters and Technology department to package these in foam and Peli waterproof, shock-resistant boxes.
These packs went out into the community and were used back- to-back by all the schools in the area, only returning to be  xed
or replenished. The Micro:bit box even made it to an outreach event in China over the summer holidays.
The next step was to scale up, making up 30 boxes initially
to iron out the various issues
we might face, before making
any more. We responded to the schools’ requests and bought sets of data loggers, telescopes, biology models, fossil packs, Arduinos, robots, green screens, virtual reality headsets, plus Nao the robot and the Microsoft HoloLens.
Our Technology team spent holidays working out how to cut the foam, mount the contents and badge the boxes. We produced a website, an online booking system and a hardback book for each
pack where teachers could log who and what they taught and provide feedback. This was used to share best practice between schools; they could read into the history of the box and how others had used it.
The next issue was distribution.
We needed to provide an ef cient and cost-effective delivery
and collection system, provide insurance and conduct risk assessments. I began delivering them by hand to schools, and although this was time-consuming, it quickly became very clear
that this process was gold dust in the development of our regular contact with the schools, enhancing relationships through very regular interaction.
Once a fortnight I  lled a vehicle with the boxes requested and visited all the schools delivering them. The teachers were delighted and it was not long before the of ce staff, children and even parents knew our faces, names and what we were offering.
The initial capital was high, around £600 per complete box, with the boxes themselves being quite expensive. Ongoing lower expenditure goes on replenishing packs, replacing broken bits, and every now and again a school approaches us with a request for something new, usually easily manageable.
As the programme is now established, we would love to partner with other independent schools who could make up similar box schemes. I’d like to think we could then link our systems, so that we can share boxes across counties like libraries, enabling some of the more expensive kit
to be shared further a eld. We have many requests from outside our delivery area, and have only been able to respond to a few.
I would also like to explore the possibility of companies donating and sponsoring equipment for the boxes.
This programme is still very much in its infancy and we have a journey ahead to perfect it. We would love to hear from anyone interested in getting involved
in the initiative with a view to growing the resource base and making it more widely available.
   www.outreachboxes.com gal@sevenoaksschool.org
28 Independent Schools Magazine
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