Tom Arbuthnott has been leading cross-sector partnerships in Berkshire, Birmingham and London since 2010.
Tom’s career started as a teacher of History, Geography and RE in challenging state sector secondary schools. He built wide experience in the inner city and in the suburbs, both in Birmingham and in Surrey, eventually developing a career as an English teacher in schools with a significant emphasis on students with English as an Additional Language.
Educated himself in the independent sector as a King’s Scholar at Eton College, Tom was given the chance in 2010 to build a cross-sector partnership programme for King Edward’s School in Birmingham. Over six years, he built a network of over 190 state sector schools, with over 600 teachers per year coming to King Edward’s for training, and with over 16,000 students annually engaging with the programme. The project won ‘Best Independent/State school partnership’ in the 2016 TES awards, and was cited as an important influence in KES winning the ‘West Midlands Independent School of the Decade’ Award for the Sunday Times in 2020.
Since 2016, Tom has led the partnerships programme at Eton College. He leads on Eton’s ‘gold-standard’ partnership with two outstanding free schools, Holyport College and the London Academy of Excellence, as well as being the prime mover behind the establishment in 2019 of the Thames Valley Learning Partnership, which brings together six non-selective state schools with two independent schools for mutual benefit. He also oversees Eton’s widening access programme, and was responsible for leading the committee which devised the Orwell Award, which has enabled life-changing opportunities for 12 boys per year in the sixth form since its inception in 2019.
Since the launch of Eton’s ‘New Social Vision’ by the Head Master, Simon Henderson, in May 2020, Tom has been leading this initiative, which will change the language around cross-sector partnership in the 2020s. Not only are wider partnerships being formed with agencies across the UK, but Eton’s digital resources, in the form of EtonX, will be made available free of all charge to all state sector schools going forward. In addition, Eton has committed to exploring the feasibility of founding further ‘accelerator schools’ (on the model of the LAE) across the Midlands and North of England, which will fulfil the Founder Henry VI’s vision of providing new educational opportunity to disenfranchised young people. This is a mission which is as relevant now, in the 21st century, especially mid-coronavirus, as it was in the 15th century when Henry VI articulated it.
Tom was a co-founder of the Schools Together Group, which has been successful in establishing a cadre of committed partnership co-ordinators across schools in both sectors: indeed, if you’re reading this, you’re probably a member! He organised the inaugural Schools Together conference, ‘Inspiring Partnerships’, in May 2017 at Eton, and took office as Chair from 2017-2018. He has founded the ‘partnerships in practice’ series, which defines best practice in partnership work, writing ‘All Together Now’ (with Peter Hatch) in 2018 and ‘The Missing 2000’ (with Anushka Chakravarty) in 2020.
Tom has been among the foremost thinkers about how independent schools and state schools can work together to foster an educational commonwealth for the benefit of all children for a number of years. This blog aims to regularise and publish his thoughts on a regular basis. He also tweets at @arbuthnotttom.