Reading School has developed rewarding relationships with many key partners, says society manager Jas Chhokar
As a selective secondary academy and state boarding school for boys, we have a strong academic record and place a high value on character education through our personalised ‘Learn, Lead and Serve – Reading Way’ framework. In 2022, we were awarded the Character Education Kitemark Plus by the Association of Character Education (ACE). We are also part of the DfE’s Inclusion in Schools programme, which aims to enhance equality, diversity and inclusion. Today, Reading School has 1,134 students, including 87 boarders and 364 sixth formers. Numbers have increased since 2016 when we grew from a four-form to a five-form entry – and this growing demand for space has created challenges for our Grade II-listed Alfred Waterhouse building.
The Society Office
Now in its fifth year, the Society Office oversees alumni relations, development and fundraising, marketing and communications, and events. The society coordinator and I have forged relations across our extended community through a high-level engagement strategy, telling the ‘Reading School Story’ that showcases the achievements of our staff and students.
People give when they feel a connection to a cause, so our aim is to build and nurture a culture of community, belonging and philanthropy. We have worked to elevate the opportunities offered to our students by fostering partnerships which align with our core values of excellence, integrity, leadership and community.
With the support of key partners, including the Reading Foundation, Old Redingensians Association (ORA), Reading School Parents Association (RSPA) and grant-giving bodies such as the Wolfson Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation, we’ve been able to expand and enrich much of our site and facilities. Our annual fund is supported by generous parental and alumni contributions and provides opportunities to ensure we can deliver the versatile sporting and co-curricular opportunities expected of a school of this size.
Since 2012, we have developed a new refectory, computer science facilities, four biology laboratories and three chemistry laboratories. Recently, we were able to refurbish the roof of our Big School in the Alfred Waterhouse building thanks to a generous legacy gift. In addition, we’ve carried out refurbishment of the Keeton Cricket Pavilion and physics laboratories, as well as some of the less exciting but essential parts of the school, such as toilets. The ORA annually sponsors our Book Week festival, when we host author talks, writing workshops and the school magazine, Floreat Redingensis. The RSPA is an integral part of our school community, annually supporting specific projects such as providing new cricket nets, the Christmas Amazon Wishlist and books for the LRC.
Funded by the Reading Foundation and now in its seventh year, Future Stories is our flagship social mobility programme. The aim is to raise aspirations for less advantaged pupils from local primary schools – and we are proud to be shortlisted as finalists in the School/College of the Year category of the UK Social Mobility Awards for two years in a row.
As a school we want to remain a place of high performance and also provide increasing opportunities for children within our local area. We work with primary schools in deprived areas of Reading, providing pupils with weekly mentoring support in mathematics and English, as well as running workshops to engage pupils from Year 4 onwards. Ultimately, we hope to inspire children to apply to Reading School.
Early in the pandemic we faced challenges in delivering the usual programme, so we adapted our approach using technology to provide additional support. Led by assistant head Tom Evans, our excellent teachers and students were integral in providing this approach, resulting in an increase in admissions from students in deprived areas.
Johnson Matthey’s ‘Science and Me’ programme
With all organisations now measuring ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) impact, schools can benefit from developing partnerships that align approaches. When a parent shared that technology company Johnson Matthey was running a flagship ‘Science and Me’ initiative, offering funds for schools that promote science and work with local communities, it was clear there was a strong fit with our Future Stories programme.
We were awarded just over £19,000 by Johnson Matthey, enabling us to expand Future Stories to provide bespoke ‘Science and Me’ workshops to seven local primary schools. We reached more than 200 pupils over the year, helping to close the gap in scientific knowledge due to the pandemic, and inspiring pupils to pursue STEM subjects and careers. The pupils engaged in live experiments and lessons in state-of-the-art science laboratories, building confidence and competency while linking science with accessible career pathways. Our senior students also benefited by acting as role models in mentoring and delivering experiments.
A sustainable future
The Society Office plays a key role in developing partnerships that build our wider community. These relationships are based on shared values and respect. If there’s a common interest, then it’s a win-win reciprocal arrangement for both sides.
Such partnerships include:
- Annual sponsorship of a school event by local businesses or suppliers. In return, we promote the business as the sponsor in event brochures and marketing, with regular shout-outs across our social media and invitations to socials such as alumni networking. For example, a sports kit supplier sponsored the school sports awards ceremony, which was attended by more than 500 guests. In addition, at our annual Careers Convention we received responses from an Old Boy who trains people to work in insurance, a parent from a law firm and the husband of a member of staff who runs his own heating and plumbing business. As our headline sponsors, all received a full-page promotion in the programme, as well as the best location at the event and promotion on social media.
- Volunteering expertise for careers, mentoring and lectures (our parents and alumni provide a wealth of expertise to our students and operational areas).
- Mentoring support to our current students and undergraduate alumni.
- Letting our facilities to local groups that seek space for meetings, workshops or sports, for instance cricket clubs or the local hospital for team meetings. We’ve even hired out our chapel to Old Boys who wanted to get married there.
- We make our spaces available for community outreach work, such as our support for the Ukraine community, who use our chapel for worship.
- We recently set up a trading sub FSCE Ltd (Future Stories Community Enterprise) which markets and sells our own 11+ entrance test for grammar schools. Three schools signed up in the first year to FSCE, which is designed to promote social mobility through innovative entrance testing and community outreach.
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