What are Area-based Education Partnerships?

Education Partnerships are school-led, place-based organisations that include all types of schools with the central purpose of improving local issues of quality and equity which cannot easily be tackled by autonomous schools working in a fractured system.

Education Partnerships:

Take responsibility for the quality of education in a local area and help to drive improvements in outcomes for children and young people
Act as an engine of improvement locally, brokering connections and initiatives across schools, and stimulating innovation
Bridge the divide between different types of schools
Provide a framework to allow schools to work together

Schools choose, voluntarily, to belong to their local partnerships. These are schools across all phases and types, including maintained schools, academies and free schools. Most partnerships work closely with local authorities to ensure children and young people are served well. They minimise the dangers of fragmentation and isolation within the school system by generating collective energy and purpose to create a stronger local education system. There are different partnership models but all share the beliefs set out below.

What is the Association’s Purpose?

The Association of Education Partnerships (AEPA) is led by a national steering group, which is co-chaired by Baroness Estelle Morris and Christine Gilbert CBE. Our full membership includes over 30 partnerships across England – from established organisations to groups that are still developing. Our aim is to learn from each other by sharing experiences and ideas. Our hope is that by doing so we will expand the conversation to other parts of the education system.

We are not exclusive. We are open to new members and to wide participation in our meetings, debates and events. We want to complement not duplicate, and to work with all those who believe that a strong and healthy school system requires an open, collaborative, accountable and ambitious culture that listens to, and works for, the benefit of all. Sign up now at info@aepa.org.uk if you would like more information or simply to express support for our core beliefs.

Our Core Beliefs

School-led improvement works well if the system is inclusive and collaborative

We strongly support the shift to a school-led model of school improvement. However, the current patchwork of provision means the system is fragmented and too many schools are left at risk of isolation. Area-based education partnerships offer a means of supporting all schools to work together. At their best, partnerships build professional and community capital to support learning and achievement. In particular, system-wide collaboration can motivate and inspire teachers. Partnerships provide the glue in a potentially splintered system. An unintended consequence of fragmentation is that some schools prosper at the expense of others. The AEPA believes that if all schools shared a collective responsibility for schools in an area, our education system would be stronger with no school isolated or left behind, and more children would thrive.

Place still matters. Member organisations define themselves by locality

Our member organisations define themselves by locality. They recognise the importance of local identity and a strong sense of place. Their commitment is to all local children and to all local schools. In nurturing the educational growth of an area, partnerships can play an important part in building a sense of place. The Association welcomes the strategic relationships between many partnerships and their local authorities. We also believe that partnerships are well-placed to lead or support a range of collaborative arrangements with stakeholders and organisations across the locality. This helps counter fragmentation, reduce duplication of effort and cost, and helps make investments in new services viable by trading on a wider scale.

Social, emotional and cultural capital is also our responsibility

Education is about more than exam results, but it can be hard for individual schools working alone to foster students’ social, emotional and cultural development amid current pressures and tightening budgets. The support provided by partnerships can be invaluable. Partnerships can ensure effective linkage so there is greater support across an area for the well-being of individuals and groups. Area-based education partnerships offer a new form of civic leadership and should have a key part to play in giving active support to the services and experiences that enrich young people’s lives.

Partnerships need a national presence and voice

Area-based education partnerships are a bottom-up innovation, reflecting a desire to work differently to meet local need and to create a collaborative system of support. As such, partnerships have taken different approaches and are at different stages of development. They are well supported politically by local councils but more needs to be done to make central government aware of their potential. The Association therefore provides an opportunity to share ideas, to support and challenge emerging policy, including acting as champions for the necessary changes required nationally to better support education.