(Photo by Jonathan Clover)
Supplementary schools exist to raise the academic attainment levels of children and young people. There are an estimated 3-5,000 'supplementary', 'complementary', 'community' or 'Saturday' schools in Britain, offering a range of learning opportunities, including national curriculum subjects, religious studies, mother-tongue classes and cultural studies.
There is a natural affinity between supplementary schools, which typically cater for ethnic minority communities, and the British Museum’s collection which spans the history of the world’s cultures.
Community Partnerships Team connects diverse audiences with The British Museum
and its collections through collaborative and creative programming. We work in
partnership with local audiences to adapt our Public Programme to the needs of
specific groups; the elderly, the vulnerable, the hard-to-reach. The
overarching objective is to provide everyone with the opportunity to have the
best experience of the British Museum with a focus on creating stepping stones to
empower people to become independent museum visitors.
Working with supplementary schools effectively reaches communities that the Museum’s existing family, school or community programmes do not.
operate at the weekend which means they can’t access the mainstream schools
programme, while our weekend offer primarily focuses on families visiting with
children aged 5 – 11 years old, and in small units. In contrast supplementary
school participants range in age from 4 – 18 years old, and visiting groups
might number up to 60 participants.
The demand for specialised
programming for this audience was evidenced by the pilot Supplementary Schools
Weekend for Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam. Over the weekend of 31
March – 1 April 2012 1,800 staff, students and families visited the exhibition,
including a significant number of first time visitors. The pilot weekend
demonstrated that working with Supplementary Schools helps us connect young
people, their families and communities with the British Museum and its
collections, and has informed the main Supplementary Schools Programme.
Last month saw the British Museum’s Community Partnerships
Team (rather ambitiously!) running two conferences exploring themes of
partnership working across a variety of sectors. Attendees included
universities professionals, healthcare providers, charities, supplementary
schools, museums and arts and heritage organisations amongst others.
Conversations centred around the potentials offered by collaborative working
methods in both the provision of effective public services and the creation of
opportunities for diverse communities to develop new interests and enthusiasms.
The National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education
(NRCSE) and Supplementary Schools Programme Team headed up the Innovation
in Partnership Conference which aimed to inform delegates of the
proliferation of 'supplementary' 'community' or 'Saturday' schools across the
UK and their important contributions to the lives of children and young people.
This was evidenced through a range of case studies that demonstrated creative
partnership projects between supplementary schools, universities and museums.
Topics explored included; the nature of successful
partnerships, with Charmian Kenner of Goldsmiths University of London
considering the value of holistic learning through supplementary schools and
universities, the benefits of increased access to inspirational places,
experiences and people as discussed by Arifa Malik (MyDeen Foundation) and Zuzka Jungmanova (Czech School Without Borders)
and the breadth of possible innovative collaborations as presented by Claire
Prosser and Marie Taylor from Colchester & Ipswich Museums Service and Matt
Greenhall and Sarah Price from Durham Oriental Museum. Finally, Ioanna Maki
from the Institute of Education presented her views on a possible future
centred on cross-cultural focussed partnership between supplementary schools
The event was developed with opportunities for networking
always in mind. Delegates participated in an ice-breaker activity where they
used objects as a way to tell stories connected to themselves and the wider
world and a series of discussion-based workshops took place in the afternoon
exploring the benefits, challenges and practicalities of building and
sustaining truly equal partnerships. Lunch and drinks at the end of the day saw
people chatting and exchanging ideas in what was both a friendly and buzzy
The conference was expertly chaired by John Reeve of the
Institute of Education who emphasised the event’s success in bringing together
for the first time individuals from a variety of disciplines and professional
backgrounds. The British Museum was also keen to highlight the fact that
Innovation in Partnership was an experiment of sorts but one that it hoped
would be the starting point for future debates around the need for experimental
and open-minded partnership working.
For further information on the supplementary schools sector,
National Resource Centre for Supplementary Education (NRCSE)