A PARTNERSHIP that sees Dorchester schools working together has attracted national recognition.

The Dorchester Area Schools Partnership (DASP) has been recognised as a pioneering model for building links between state schools and independent schools.

The Department for Education has also pledged to help it further its plans to boost education in and around the county town.

The praise follows a meeting attended by Andrew McCully from the Department for Education, West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin, chief executive of IAPS (Independent Association of Preparatory Schools) David Hanson and DASP representatives at Sunninghill School in Dorchester.

Headteacher at Sunninghill Andrew Roberts-Wray said: “We’ve made good contact with the Department for Education and we’re now in a great position to develop DASP further.

“It was gratifying to hear that DASP meets all three of the Government’s key targets – independence and accountability for all schools, partnership through strong federations and closer links between state and private schools.”

He added: “Together we are offering opportunities to pupils that aren’t available to schools working on their own.

“And together we are raising the achievements of pupils across all schools involved.

“The best-known model nowadays for links between private and state schools is for private schools to sponsor academies.

“But we feel that only really works for the wealthiest independent schools, and it doesn’t sufficiently take into account the benefits that flow both ways. “For smaller schools, the way forward is creating a partnership of equals.”

Mr Letwin said he was keen to see how the work of DASP could be rolled out to improve the standards in other schools in Dorset.

He said: “DASP is a marvellous Dorchester arrangement, and it’s great that the Department for Education will now be working with all the schools to take these excellent schools from strength to strength.

“This sort of co-operation is just the sort of innovation that we need to see happening.”

Mr Henson added: “IAPS supports DASP’s vision and many of our members are interested to see its progress.”

Representatives from DASP will hold a further meeting in December, which will include a visit from Schools Commissioner Dr Liz Sidwell, to develop a forward plan.

Future plans currently proposed by the partnership include forging closer ties with local businesses and developing a ‘skills for life’ programme’ to offer youngsters the chance to learn workplace skills.