The Journey to Federation

Federation Information Sharing Meeting -

Wednesday 14th January 2014 – Cattle Market, Helston.

 

Present:

Delegation of Sithney and Garras Governors

Sithney and Garras Staff

Parents from both schools

Two pupils, one from each school.

Invited Guest: Lee Bacchus – Executive Headteacher St Teath & St Breward.

 

Apologies:

None

 

Meeting opened 6.45pm:

Susan Evans (Executive Head Garras & Sithney CP’s Schools –referred to as SE) welcomed all to the meeting, especially on such a stormy night. The agenda was read and Lee Bacchus introduced and welcomed to the meeting.

 

Julian Rand Chair or Governors – Garras CP School (Referred to as JR):

  • He introduced himself and his position of Chair of Govs. JR, spoke about the recent history of Garras’ experience of soft federation with another school, the financial position of small schools nationally and the Cornish position of funding within the current government funding formula.

  • The previous experience of federation, although it didn’t lead to the completion of a formal Federation, highlighted the benefits for the school. Having to return to employing a part time Headteacher, due to the financial restrictions of funding and the forthcoming retirement of the former Headteacher; the governors wanted to find the calibre of headteacher who could bring the combined approach and ethos of the ‘small school’ whilst retaining the identity of Garras School.

 

Fritha Durham Chair of Governors – Sithney CP School (Referred to as FD):

  • She introduced herself – Chair for one year and a governor for the past 5yrs, has education experience, firstly as a secondary school teacher and now teaching within a local primary school.

  • FD highlighted the changes and commitments as a Headteacher within small schools. The demands on teaching heads and the changes within the funding formula making Federation a positive move to both keeping the small school ethos alive and raising standards. The benefit of the soft federation with Garras with the combination of being part of the Helston Co-Operative of 18 local schools, has proved that the benefit can be felt both financially, with the opportunities open to the children and staff. We have the opportunity to focus on the sustainability and future of the two schools, should the parents and governors feel that a formal federations should be entered into – this meeting is an opportunity to ask any questions and hear other people’s views.

 

Lee Bacchus (Executive Head Teacher - St. Breward & St Teath (Referred to as LB):

  • He spoke about his experience of a federation of the two small schools. Prior to federation the two schools were financially insecure and both employed head teachers with teaching commitments for part of the week. He was approached by the other Governing Body and the possibility of federation.

 

What were the schools options?

  • Closure - leaving the two communities without schools for their children and future generations.

  • Academy Status – this would undoubtedly be as part of a large national organisation and the loss of the local ethos and understanding of the local community.

  • Federation - The brining together of two schools by the shared appointment of a Headteacher and one governing body.

  • Initially, a soft federation was agreed for 3yrs with the hope to formalise the arrangement in year 4. With the ability to employ additional teaching staff, due to the Headtacher’s salary being shared between both schools, the schools benefitted from having the continuity of designated class teachers, standards across both schools soon rose. Both Schools welcomed OFSTED soon after the new arrangements, which gave all parties a benchmark to identify areas for improvement. Following re-inspection of one of the schools a year later, standards were seen to have improved.

  • With the success of the partnership it was decided to formalise the Federation after just 18 months, with the move to one governing body. This governing body was made up from both schools, now after 5yrs there is a core number of governors rather than the initial two whole committees.

  • The school budgets are separate apart from three areas.

    PE Funding – the employment of a specialist working across both schools

    SEN – the employment of a SENDco working across both schools

    Secretary/finance Officer – funded and working across both schools

  • Other areas which have benefitted from the federation are, the opportunities for the pupils and training opportunities for the staff. The initial concern of the loss of identity of the individual schools has not been seen, the two communities are both quite different and this has been supported by the sharing of those differences and their strengths. The Federation has and continues to work well.

  • LB shared his views on the demands on teaching heads and the ability to undertake a teaching commitment, the impact on the wellbeing of the Headteacher and the school, the needs of small schools, especially within Cornwall and the success that federation can provided for likeminded small schools.

 

  • FD thanks LB for his valuable insight to his experience of the federation of his schools. She hoped that it may have allayed some fears that people may have had.

  • FD went on to explain that both she and JR have met to speak about the proposed federation and established a shared aim to achieve the best outcome for both schools; be it federation or not. JR’s previous experience of the federation process and his 10yrs experience as a school governor, will be of great benefit for both schools during this period of transition.

  • The governing bodies want the process to be transparent, listening to views and embracing challenge. Their aim is to secure the best future of both schools.

 

Staff Reflections:

James (Garras – Assistant Headteacher) highlighted the following areas which he has identified as strengths of the current federation with Sithney.

  • Senior Leadership Team (SLT)   - opportunity to travel to Denmark to look at different approaches to education.
  • No longer feeling isolated - co-operative thinking for action plans
  • Benefit of a ‘Critical Friend’

 

Helen Neil (Sithney – Assistant Headteacher) highlighted the following areas which she has identified as strengths of the current federation with Garras.

  • Working as one SLT team to highlight best practice and make informed strategic decision making for the benefit of both schools
  • Working as one team across both schools and the sharing of professionalism
  • Planning for both schools;  identifying the staffs expertise and the sharing of the  ‘many hats’ for example,  Helen as a science specialist and James is a specialist in music,  all staff have led and planned their area of specialism for all classes across both schools.
  • No longer feeling isolated, can have professional dialogue and support from a number of other teachers/staff.
  • SE supportive in the development of a new SLT and working in partnership across the two schools, has encouraged the shared responsibility of the schools to develop.

 

  • SE spoke about the isolation she felt as a full time Headteacher with a teaching commitment, the difficulty in being able to fulfil the demands of running the school and the demands of planning, teaching etc. along with having the focused, strategic mind-set for the schools future. With the move to federation it enabled her to focus strategically on the future of not just one school but two.

 

Emma Greatbatch (Garras – Class Teacher KS2) Joined in Feb 2014. 

  • Since her appointment she has worked closely with staff from Sithney, especially in areas such as Y6 Sats which has been invaluable – support is readily available and happily shared across both schools.
  • Working within a small cohort - working with Sithney has enabled the children to gain wider opportunities of social interaction and friendship groups which will be beneficial when moving to their senor schools.

Emma Sumpter (Sithney – Class Teacher EYFS)

  • Now having the EYFS areas being judged separately by OFSTED it has been of great benefit to work with Ally from Garras - trying our new ideas, highlighting best practice and learning together during joint learning experiences for example – Forest Schools.

         

Karen Holloway (HLTA – Sithney) Worked at Sithney 13yrs

  • There have been lots of changes over the past few years and the coming together with Garras has enabled broader opportunities for the children and staff training. Staff regularly meet at joint staff meetings.  Some staff have had the opportunity to work at both schools.  The children have the benefit of joint residential visits, so interacting with other children from other schools, which as an individual small school would have otherwise been financially prohibitive.

 

Matt Birchall (Class Teacher – Sithney)

  • Having had the opportunity of working at both schools, Matt has an insight into the range of benefits for two schools working closely together.  Recognised very quickly that both schools have a very similar culture and positive vibe.
  • The opportunities for professional development across both schools is working well with many benefits for the children already been seen: joint trips to the Maritime Museum, Forest Schools, etc.

  • As PE Co-ordinator across both schools we have been able to offer the children the ability to take part in events which as individual small schools have been prohibitive. The coming together has benefitted the children by accessing sporting competitions and partaking in activities such as sailing.

         

  • JR explained that the sharing of staff across both schools enabled Garras to have a male teacher for the first time in many years. He expressed his admiration for all staff at both schools and their dedication and commitment to their roles. –THEY CARE.

 

Pupils’ reflections:

  • Finn from Sithney and Charlie from Garras read aloud the views of the children from both schools.

 

Parent discussion:

Having shared the view of all other stakeholders in school, SE opened the part of the meeting for parent discussion. Parents were invited to share any view, reflections or ask any questions:

 

Sithney Parent: Where would the federation of the two schools sit within the co-operative trust?

  • SE: Both schools would remain within the trust as they are now. We would be the only schools within the trust to be federated.

  • Garras Parent: With SE retiring would the federation remain at two schools or would it be able to grow larger?

  • LB: Federations are able to grow but only if the joint governing body agree that it is the best for both current schools and the executive head. Following the federation, the appointment of a Headteacher will be made by the joint governing body “one voice for both schools”

  • SE it is the aim of us all to make our schools sustainable, by offering the headship of two federated schools as a full time post. It is an exciting opportunity for a head wishing to broaden their experience and further their career. It is hoped the position will attract a high calibre of candidate.

 

Sithney Parent: Are you not minimising the candidates by offering the post as a federated executive headship?

  • SE reported recruitment for part-time head teachers is less successful than if a fulltime position is advertised. There is the attractive opportunity for aspiring and serving head teachers. By federating, the schools offer an exciting proposition to the right candidate to ‘grow’ these schools.

 

Garras Parent: What if it doesn’t work?

  • SE There is the possibility to reverse the federation, but the impact can be quite significant on the sustainably of both the school. Financially the school may only be able to afford a part-time head and this would not appeal to prospective candidates. SE reiterates her view “is this a viable option?”

  • LB Explains that academy status for small schools, in most case, sees the partnership with a larger national organisation and loss of autonomy and identity.

  • Garras Governor: We want the energy of one person to lead across the two schools.

  • JR We all care about the education of our children, in both schools. We – the governors, will find a head that will be great at both schools. As Governors we regularly question what we do and why we do it, the answer is always is ‘what is best for our children’.

  • Sithney Governor: The head who is appointed will have an amazing opportunity to drive both schools in one vision and enter a new era for both schools.

 

Garras Parent: Could the new head change the teaching across the schools?

  • SE Yes, they will be able to change the approach across the two schools. I hope that whoever is chosen will have an organic approach, listen well to governors, staff and will want to work with and grow the schools’ current ethos.

  • Sithney Parent: As long I have been involved with Sithney School I have not known the governors make a bad decision – we need to support the governors and trust them to make the decisions.

 

Sithney Parent: Will anything change following federation?

  • SE I can see that there will be changes. These may be due to the outcome of the general election later this year – the previous education minister made a lot of changes and since his replacement took over it has gone rather quiet as we embrace so many changes which are currently being implemented. The bringing in of the new curriculum and the changes in children’s assessment will see a different emphasis on areas of learning. The one thing that we all need to be aware of is ‘that the only constant is change’. I hope the new head would take their time and say “show me a year in the life of these schools, and then make informed decisions about the future vision.

 

Sithney Parent: Will you be there to oversee the change of leadership?

  • SE: No, I have to step back and let the Governors oversee the appointment of a new head who will lead with their vision.

 

Sithney Parent: Will they be run as two separate schools?

  • SE: On a day to day basis you won’t see any difference. We will come together when we have the opportunity to share our learning, but we want to celebrate our differences as two communities.

 

Garras Parent: What amount of time will the schools spend together?

  • SE: Whatever is right – flexibility is the approach.

  • Garras Governor: Schools need a firm foundation to thrive and Susan has been that foundation.

 

Sithney Parent: What will the implications of the general election have on the federation process?

  • SE & JR: We just don’t know!

  • LB: All three major parties have been singing the praises of schools working together.

 

Garras Parent: How long will it take to go through the federation process and to have one governing body?

  • LB: It takes about 4 months.

  • Sithney Parent: As a parent who chose a small school, I can see that federation is a lifeline for the life of the small schools.

  • LB: Should the government look at small schools viability the isolated small school will look more vulnerable than two federated schools as part of a larger cooperative.

  • Sithney Parent: I am passionate about the benefits of what small schools can offer and I want to see them continue within our communities.

 

Sithney Parent/Staff: What is the interview process for a new Headteacher?

  • FD: If we federate there will be a panel of governors with a representation from both schools and members from the SLT. We have governors with experience of the appointment process. The children and parents of both schools will have some influence in the choice of Headteacher appointed. The legacy which Susan will leave will be an exciting and attractive opportunity for the new head to work in moving both schools forward into a new era.

  • Sithney Governor: As a group of governors we know what we want and we will make sure that we find the right person for both schools.

  • FD: Prior to the appointment we will be making the decision about the federation of Garras and Sithney Schools.

 

Garras Parent to LB: Did you see an influx of pupils to your schools?

  • LB: Over the past few years the number on roll at both schools has grown if not doubled. You need pupils to sustain any school and a thriving school will always attract families. Schools with under 50 pupils will always be on the radar for the local authority and sustainability. It is up to the schools to maintain their ethos, confidence and trust within the communities which they serve.

  • Sithney Parent: Having been a parent with three children at Sithney I have witnessed it double in size over the past three years, I have not noticed any change in its ethos during this time.

  • SE: Both schools have grown and we are now seeing discerning parents choose our school because of our ethos. We have a positive reputation within the local community and parents want to come and see what we are doing.

  • JR: We shall look at our schools and identify the optimum number of pupils for the schools. The governors will sit down and make the decision as to how best to maintain the sustainability of the schools whilst raising standards.

 

Garras Parent: Could the financial instability of one school effect the other within the federation?

  • JR: No, each school will retain their own budget.

  • LB: There is the ability to ‘Pool’ identified areas such as PE, SEN etc. should the joint governing body feel this would provide best value for both schools.

  • SE: Both schools are also judged separately by OFSTED.

 

Garras Parent: Because Sithney has a school hall ‘we’ always go over there! We have access to a hall so why don’t Sithney come to us?

  • SE: We realise that Garras children have come over to Sithney more –purely due to the practical nature of this organisational option. We are looking into how we can practically improve opportunities in the future.

  • Garras Staff: We have been on joint visits out of school too. We have joint use of two mini busses which have benefited both schools on various occasions both individually and together.

  • SE: We are already seen the benefits of having a co-ordinated approach across the two schools. Matt Birchall has the role of PE co-ordinator and following feedback from parents has focus on enabling children from both schools trying and taking up new sports.

 

Matt Birchall was asked to speak about the sporting opportunities brought to both schools due to the partnership between both schools:

  • Matt Birchall: The aim is to let children have opportunity to practice and partake in a number of sports through the school year. It is hoped that all children will have a go at something and find a love of sport. Both schools are part of the Mullion Sports Partnership which gives access to a range of ‘Fun’ competitions and we have access to Jake Lane who comes into school and works with groups of children in a focused activity. We aim to offer a taster of a sport for 6weeks. Clubs may change each term/ 6weeks so to offer a variety and hopefully ‘something for everyone’. We can signpost children/parents to organisations should they wish to pursue the sport further. We have seen a lot of children trying new things. We do understand that there may have been some miss understanding about clubs organisation, we send letters home towards the end of a term to gage interest in the proposed clubs for the following term. It is from these responses, I arrange the clubs and let the member of staff who will be running the club to forward any further information to the relevant families as to the clubs organisation. Please let us know what is working well and what is not.

  • SE: We would like to remind parents that all the staff who run the afterschool clubs do this in their own time and unfortunately we are unable to arrange the transporting of children to and from these clubs. Of course we will, where possible, use the minibuses for competitions and very much appreciate the help which parents and governors offer to support these activities.

 

Summing-up by Julian Rand:

  • He personally thanked everyone for coming along and sharing views with Governors.

  • He outlined the formal process for federation.

 

NEXT STEPS:

  • Establish a joint Governance Committee with agreed terms of reference. The number and category of Governors will be agreed by the Governing Bodies.

  • The consultation documents will be prepared and published.

  • Six weeks will be allowed for consultation comments to be received. Consultation meetings will be arranged as necessary.

  • The consultation documents will be sent to:

  • The secretary of State for Education
  • Cornwall Council
  • Head Teacher
  • Relevant Governors
  • Staff of both Schools
  • Parents of Pupils on Roll at the two Schools
  • Any Other person or organisation the Governing Bodies consider appropriate.
  • Governing Bodies will jointly consider responses to the consultation. The will then formally decide whether or not to go ahead with the Federation.

 

Assuming a decision in favour of Federation:

  • Agree date of Federation and give notice to Cornwall Council and Secretary of State.  Prepare draft instrument of government and submit to Cornwall Council.
  • Undertake all TUPE and employment consultation and issue new contracts.
  • Members of the new Governing Body Appointed
  • The Governing body of each School to carry out inventory and prepare a brief report to the new Governing Body on the actions taken to discharge their functions relating to their school.

  • On Federation Date, existing School Governing Bodies are dissolved and the new Governing Body is put in place.

  • Once the governing bodies have made the decision that the schools are to federate it will be at this point we can advertise the Head Teachers position.

 

Vote of thanks by Fritha Durham:

  • She asked parents to trust the Governing Bodies to make the right decision.

  • She thanked everyone for coming this evening, Parents, Governors, Staff and especially the two children and Lee for sharing his experiences on federation – Thank you.

  • She expressed hope that parents share the governor’s view to look forward to a ‘Positive Future’

 

Meeting Ended 9.05pm

OUTCOME OF THE CONSULTATION:

On Friday 27th March, following the period of consultation, it was unanimously agreed by the Governing bodies of both schools that Garras School and Sithney School should form a 'hard federation'.

Members of both school communities have expressed their positive support for the formalisation of this partnership and everyone looks forward to a bright and prosperous future for our pupils.

 

Headteacher, Susan Evans said “This is an incredibly exciting time for both schools as we reflect on the benefits we have already seen and begin to plan for a future which will ensure both schools continue to grow from strength to strength.”