You may have noticed that notdeadfish has a particular interest in the relationship between the third sector and education. In fact, a large number of our projects sit at the interface between charity and school.
Traditionally, this relationship has been very much driven by ‘provider push’. For example, charities – who are the providers of ideas, services or products – want schools to buy these (either literally as a financial transaction or intellectually as a concept or an approach to changing practice).
Barely a week goes by without another charity report on what it is that schools should be doing to help children. We know this, because in previous lives we have authored a number of them. But charities often spend far too long looking for the deficits in schools that only they can fix.
There has been much criticism of this – it adds to the sheer bombardment of things that schools have to respond to on a daily basis and there is a sense from some (exemplified in the debate over whether the College of Teachers should only be run by serving teachers), that unless you are in practice – you shouldn’t be telling schools what to buy or do.
But in truth, both schools AND charities have something to bring to the table.
Charities often have specific skill sets or foci, e.g. in mental health, SEN, outdoor learning etc. that schools wish to access. They often sit outwith of any statutory funding or policy framework and can operate differently to schools in terms of advocacy and the projects they prioritise. They can also bring additional resources.
Schools have most of the knowledge they need. Organisations such as The London Leadership Strategy, Whole Education and Challenge Partners offer models that allow this knowledge to be shared around the system and the term ‘school-led’ is becoming a mantra (albeit the school-led system still appears to be in its infancy).
So going forward, the question is how to make best use of these assets to achieve better outcomes and to (excuse the jargon!) co-produce a solution.
One way is for schools and third sector organisations to co-write funding proposals (and not – as is often the case, the charity asks for a school to be involved in a bid at the last minute!)
The proper co-development of applications from the start of the process would force the school and charity to consider the problem they are trying to address and use each others' expertise to come up with a jointly-owned solution that is likely to be more attractive to funders and is much more likely to stick when applied in a school. (We could all list very well-funded programmes that failed when funding stopped because they were funding and charity-led, rather than pulled from schools).
But – to do this, a number of things need to change to encourage joint bids.
Rather grandly, we have written a manifesto for funding for schools and charities, but the first step starts with schools knowing where the funding is so that they can lead bids rather than waiting for the charity to ‘choose them’.
We look forward to hearing of any resulting successes...