SWINDON Academy and Nova Hreod are to receive a share of a record £5 million donation to help encourage staff development and provide exceptional student experiences.

Both schools are part of United Learning – an education charity which manages 50 independent schools and academies across the country – which has received the generous sum of money from benefactor Alan Howard.

The money will now be used to establish the United Learning Partnership Fund, a unique collaboration between United Learning’s schools and other independent schools.

Ruth Robinson, principal of Swindon Academy, said: “This initiative provides an excellent opportunity for schools from both parts of the sector to come together. Everyone involved has something to offer and, through successful collaboration, we will be able to provide additional opportunities for our students and development for our staff.”

Ben Parnell, executive principal of Nova Hreod was also pleased to hear the news.

He said: “Partnership and collaboration add significant value to the success of a school and its students. We are delighted that, as part of United Learning, we will have direct access to the Partnership Fund. Both in terms of extending the experiences we are able to offer our students and the professional development available to our staff, this is an initiative that, in the coming years, we will be proud to reap the rewards from.”

The funding is the largest ever UK donation for collaborative work between the two arms of the education sector.

Alan Howard, whose donation has made the Partnership Fund possible said: “Students deserve the best, especially when it comes to education. I am very pleased to support a visionary team of educators who have developed an innovative approach to encouraging students to aim high while providing them the tools to achieve their goals. The team is committed to do what it takes to make this project a great success, and I am honoured to be backing their efforts.”

The collaboration has been praised by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who said in a letter: “Breaking down the divide between state and independent schools is an important goal for the future of our country. So I am pleased that the United Learning Partnership Fund will enable the two sectors to work together on a larger scale than ever before, with teachers sharing expertise and pupils sharing experiences, so that more young people will have better educational opportunities and learn together.

“This partnership has the potential to improve the life chances of young people in our country. Alan Howard’s founding donation is one of the most generous this country has seen to a schools organisation and will ensure the collaboration gets off to a strong start. I shall watch its impact with great interest over the coming years”.

During its first year, The Fund will launch teacher development programmes, begin a programme of cultural and sporting experiences for students, support clusters of schools to improve access to top universities and deliver residential events for the most able students to support their university preparation.