Downe House and Radley College have enjoyed close relations for a long time; their proximity and their many shared values mean that siblings often attend the schools, and there have been many socials and other collaborative projects involving boys and girls from both schools over many years.
In 2020, pupils and staff at both schools started to explore the possibility of broadening the scope of our collaboration and formalising it into a coherent strategy. In the same year, the social media campaign ‘Everyone’s Invited’ had highlighted the need for all schools to work hard to build positive relationships between boys and girls, and so the desire to work more closely with Radley was also a response to this.
A committee of six Upper Sixth Formers was established in both schools and these groups met on several occasions to decide on a way ahead. The groups presented their ideas and plans to the Headmistress and the Warden of Radley in October 2021: they did a brilliant job, and the project was taken forward enthusiastically.
The Downe House team of Upper Sixth Formers – Ayanfe, Danna, Maddi, Poppy, Rosie and Sophie – and their Radley counterparts did a superb job initiating and running this project during the academic year 20221-22. In the first year alone, over 30 varied collaborative projects – academic, co-curricular and social – have taken place involving pupils from UIV (Year 9) upwards.
This is a student-driven project and those involved have worked hard with staff at both schools to agree the Vision and Objectives of the strategic partnership and to broaden the range of activities completed by the girls and boys.
By working together on mutually beneficial projects, both schools provide all students with direct and meaningful experience of working with the opposite sex, preparing them fully for life beyond school while retaining the integrity and value of single sex education. Relationships of respect are created through academic, co-curricular and social interactions. In formalising our long-standing links, we ensure that plans are sustainable, and the impact is measurable.
• To create relationships of respect between students
• To provide opportunities for personal development
• To promote academic excellence
One notable success in terms of academic collaboration has been the Humanities Symposium, which was hosted by Downe House in May 2022. This event stretched some of the two schools’ most academically curious Year 10 and Year 12 pupils – see the photos here. The plan is for Radley to host a STEM Symposium in the Spring Term of 2023, and for the two symposia to become annual events.
Another exciting collaboration in the Michaelmas Term was between the two History Departments. Radley opened its extensive WW1 archive to Downe House girls and our own archivist provided information about our alumnae’s and other local women’s contribution to the Great War effort. These sources enabled some excellent historical research which was conducted by teams of pupils from both schools.
The group of six Radley UVI boys and six Downe House girls who comprised the original committees have now passed the baton on to the same number of students in the year below. This new team, which has renamed the partnership as ‘The Respect Project’, met in June 2022 to get to know each other and to start planning how to enhance the Project further.
Downe House enjoys strong relations with many other schools and of course it is important that those links are maintained and grown alongside the special connection we have with Radley so that our pupils benefit from as wide an exposure as possible to other environments.
The new Respect Project Teams from both schools met at Downe House at the end of last term have several exciting developments in mind. They are planning a new collaborative Debating Society and additional sporting events, too. Also, they will be trained to talk to younger students about consent and related issues with a view to leading discussions with the younger pupils in their school about building positive relations with the opposite sex.
Mr Matthew Godfrey
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