UWE at cutting edge of partnerships with schools

Issue date: 07 June 2010

Ray Priest, Principal of the City Academy The University of the West of England is leading the way in the UK with its commitment to partnerships with schools and with its successful track record of supporting academies.

With the possibility of up to 1,500 new academies being created, giving schools more autonomy and taking them out of local authority control, the experience of UWE and the City Academy in Bristol highlights the value of universities partnering with local schools. UWE was the first University to sponsor an academy and since its inception in 2003, the relationship has led to raised standards and aspirations at the City Academy in East Bristol.

Ray Priest, Principal of the City Academy, Bristol, will be delivering the University's Annual Bolland lecture on Tuesday 15 June 2010, entitled 'City Academy, Bristol: a principal's story of transforming education for young people through partnership and community engagement.' He will be joined by several Post 16 students who will share reflections on their community and the Academy at the heart of this community.

Ray Priest says, “I believe there is a moral and social imperative for universities to be outward facing and to partner LAs and schools in helping to raise attainment. Universities also need to develop and support new ways of working in bringing together communities through new approaches to community engagement. I believe that UWE is at the cutting edge of this work through its partnership approach and that this is a model to be adopted nationally.”

Bristol is one of the UK regions with the widest gap in aspirations of those going on to HE. In South Bristol (Knowle) only 5% go on to HE compared to 99% in North Bristol (Clifton).

Through its work with the City Academy, based in East Bristol, and other academies and trust schools, UWE is seeking to bridge a divided city through permanent encounters with local schools and colleges. Figures show that only one in ten students went on to university from the City Academy when it opened. Seven years later the figure is one in three with equally good improvements evident in achievement, attendance and other outcomes.

Only a handful of these students apply to UWE. But UWE's aim is to raise aspirations, regardless of where students apply. UWE now has half a dozen such enhanced relationships amongst its 300 school and college partnerships across the region. In additional 40 UWE staff are playing key roles in school governance.

Ron Ritchie, (Assistant Vice-Chancellor UWE), says, “UWE has a good track record of engaging with schools and we have learned a great deal about how to do this successfully. Universities are in a strong position to support academies, given their commitment to and understanding of education, their subject mix and their regional and national roles. They are well placed to support young people's aspirations, achievement and attendance. Universities can't sit on the sidelines - supporting young people's educational aspirations is a part of their civic responsibility.”

In the new tighter fiscal environment some of these University initiatives may now be harder to resource. To enhance the valuable work in this area, UWE is looking to engage in fundraising to resource projects into new models of community engagement. Through the Families and Community Engagement (FACE) Project, the University is seeking to raise £½ million to support community-based activities intended to increase young people's motivation, aspirations and achievements.


Editor's notes
The Annual Bolland Lecture will take place on Tuesday 15 June, at 18:00 in the Glendinning Lecture Theatre (2D67), on the Frenchay Campus of UWE.

This year's lecture will be given by Dr Ray Priest, Principal of The City Academy Bristol, who received an Honorary Degree from UWE in 2006.

The Bolland Lecture was established in 1976 to commemorate Dr Robert Bolland, who held the post of Director of Bristol Polytechnic from its foundation in 1969 to his death in 1974.

The lecture will be followed by a buffet supper. To register interest for this event go to http://info.uwe.ac.uk/events/default.asp and submit a booking form, or e-mail:

To donate to UWE's FACE project visit http://wwwdev.uwe.ac.uk/schoolsandcolleges/pre-16.shtml

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