School closure advice

(17 Posts)
Changebagsandgladrags Mon 23-May-16 19:25:44

Does anyone have any advice for challenging a proposal to close a school?

Ours is a small rural school with a huge catchment area.

admission Tue 24-May-16 14:44:51

Dig out the information from the government about the presumption that small rural schools should not close. Check what the other schools are in the area and the capability to get to those schools in terms of distance, ease of public transport and time.
However the reality is that many rural schools do have an alternative within say 10 miles with transport provided by the LA. If you then add in that many of these schools cost large sums of money per pupil and may not be giving a good enough education to its pupils you can understand the reasoning for closure.
Whilst this might also be badly received you might like to see what the possibility is of forming either a federation with other schools or a Multi-academy Trust with other schools. That does not necessarily get over the funding issues but it could be a partial answer.

Changebagsandgladrags Fri 27-May-16 16:32:39

Thanks, it's taken me a while to reply - lots of meetings.

On public transport, there is none. Well there's a bus three times a week from half a mile away. It leaves at 10.30...There is a school bus for secondary School pupils. To stop at the primary in town it would need to take quite a detour.

The LEAs plans are to squeeze us info the town school. It's oversubscribed in all year groups, so not entirely sure how that works. The parents in town don't really know either...

Changebagsandgladrags Fri 27-May-16 22:18:13

Edit: they have said we'll be safe if we find 7 kids more kids...

bojorojo Sat 28-May-16 14:54:13

If your school is good or better I am amazed you cannot market the school effectively to parents who cannot get into the larger school you mention. I would work on this. If your school is RI or worse and is being shunned by parents, then you may have a problem. Therefore market as hard as you can. What is your USP? What would make parents from the town drive to you? What can you offer that is better than the town school and how can you appeal to parents who cannot get into the over-subscribed school. If you are small, what advantages does this give? People won't choose your school if they do not know about it or it is not good.

The LA will provide transport to the other school if yours closes - it has to. It will (or the Academy Trust) will be expanding the school. If there are children who want to go there it may make sense to build. They would then take your school's children and those who cannot get in at the moment. This is school planning. It is cheaper to have one bigger school than two smaller ones and people frustrated because they cannot get into their favoured school. You have to try and counter this by your uniqueness and desirability.

admission Sat 28-May-16 20:34:34

The idea that you would be safe to stay open if you have 7 more pupils is somewhat fanciful. That might be the kind of finances that will balance the budget but it will not stop the LA from closing small schools if they have a mind to.
At the end of the day this does come down to pure economics. I do not know whereabouts you are in the country but 7 pupils roughly equates to around £30000, so in other words a teacher's salary. The reality is that the number of pupils you had on a specified date in October 2015 set the school's budget for April 2016 to March 2017, so the school leadership team and the governing body have known for a good few months what the financial position is. Have they done anything about the financial situation? Have they considered sharing staff with another school? Have they as bojorojo says instigated a marketing plan to get pupil numbers up?
If nothing has happened till now, my feeling is that there will not be the time or the inclination to want to do anything but an orderly closure of the school. As soon as a couple of parents get places at other schools, then it will start a process which will become a runaway train. In effect parents voting with their feet will shut the school unless there is a very, very strong and immediate push to preserve the school.

Changebagsandgladrags Sat 28-May-16 20:51:17

It's the budget from April 2017 that's the issue, so that we can set a balanced budget.

The school is Good with outstanding features. The quality of teaching is fantastic, way better than the school we were at previously. We do have a school in RI about 7 miles away which is oversubscribed, the parents are marketing there.

Our problem, which is also the reason it's lovely is it's location, no transport here. The parents that are there don't intend to leave.

bojorojo Sat 28-May-16 21:50:15

I live in a rural area and there is no transport to any village school. Parents do like the schools though and most of them are full because they take out of catchment children who arrive by car. No-one gets to them on public transport! Therefore you have to woo the type of parent who wants a village school and the benefits of that.

If the 2017 budget is looking dodgy, then the school does need to look at costs now. I am not sure how big you are but staffing costs will be a high proportion of the budget. Obviously if you are a 2 teacher school, the financial situation is dire. If it is bigger than that, there is some room for manoeuvre. Can you federate with another village school to save costs? One Head for example. Can you make classes bigger and combine ages into a single class? Is any bew housing planned? What does the local plan say?

Are you infant or combined? If you give some basic facts, we may be able to suggest savings or how to get more children.

Changebagsandgladrags Sat 28-May-16 23:02:59

God, OK, by what you say, our situation is dire.

We have two classes: infants and juniors. Our govereners looked to federate but the diocese vetoed it. However, at the public meeting, the question of federating was raised again.

Lots of new housing planned. In fact the local councillor came and was up in arms that there are all thes new houses but a proposal to close a school.

LEA confirmed the magic 7 (six now as we've gained one to start in September). But I feel a bit of a fraud telling people to come if it will close in August.

Also, why is it possible to do this so quickly? We have been given very little chance to build numbers.

bojorojo Sun 29-May-16 11:07:20

I am astonished that a C of E school is closing! What are they doing to fight your corner? Normally they try very hard to build schools up. Are you VA or VC?

Personally I would worry with a school the size of yours with 2 classes from R to Y6. I can see why people may not want it. Where I live, the village schools tend to be Infant only - except for a few C of E ones that have expanded to include a Junior department. However, sport, music and drama tend to be compromised and it is often older children who find it too insular and lack a wide circle of friends.

Is it that they could not find another C of E School to federate with? A clash of ethos maybe? Could you be the Infant school for a wider catchment area and another school be the Junior School? This has worked for a few village schools I know, but they are fairly close to each other. It was that or one had to close.

In truth, you have had years to build up numbers (sorry) and if you were once a lot bigger,then what has gone wrong? It is an ongoing aspect of rural school life that you have to make the school attractive to those out of catchment. It cannot close in August. Where would the children go?Has the Head and other staff been offered other jobs? Are they leaving? There is a full consultation period and I suggest you look up the legislation on this. I have never, personally, been in this position, but there are consultation periods and your County Councillor/Diocese should be involved. What do they know? I am also not sure of the position if it is a VA school. The Diocese would appear to have a big hand in this, so get their Education Officer in to speak to the governors and parents. What are the Governors saying about this? Are they being active at all?

Your strongest point is the new housing. Find out how many houses and projected number of children. Is the housing in your catchment? Try and get the Diocese to engage in providing an education for children from the new housing. I am at a loss to understand why they did not want to federate. It rather seems they want the school to close or they would be doing more to save it.

admission Sun 29-May-16 16:03:34

As a church school, the key people are the diocese. If they are not opposing the closure then I can only assume that they have got to the point where they believe there is no alternative. As Borojojo says usually Diocese are very very supportive of their schools to the point sometimes of being too supportive. The Diocese vetoing a federation seems very strange. Was it with a church school or not? If with a church school that really does sound bad. If it was not a church school then the answer is probably that the Diocese would not allow that as the single governing body for the federation would have had to have a majority of foundation governors and getting that agreement is always difficult.
With 2 classes, what is the teaching establishment? Is it something like 1 FT teacher + Head teacher teaching at 0.8FTE and another teacher doing the 0.2FTE? That is the absolute minimum that you could staff the school with but it does depend on the number of pupils and their spread, so with 2 classes it could be 60 pupils (but I doubt it) but if it is 30 then there is actually a massive potential to fill places and get the school on a more even keel. My suspicion is that if you look at the number of pupils in the infant end of the school they are not as good as in the junior end and the powers that be are looking forward and not seeing a good forecast. I would also have to say that everything that has been said with my business hat on says shut the school is totally uneconomic.

To be honest it seems a very short period of time for a proposal to shut for September, how long has this proposal been in the public domain for consultation? I would try and force the LA / Diocese to hold off and give the school the ability to fill places, though the key date is going to be early October when the funding for April 17 onwards will be agreed but that does rather depend on how long this has already been going on.

Changebagsandgladrags Sun 29-May-16 16:35:12

Apols, it's not C of E, it's Catholic.

The Anglican Church are keen to keep it open and they suggested a federation. But our diocese said no, not with the other side. So over the years the school has had between 6 and around 50 kids. It had a huge influx with a US air base, but that has dropped off. I think the school has been a bit slack in attracting numbers (we only started in January so don't really know).

On staffing it's is teacher full time in infants, one TA (part time). Then a head who teaches juniors part time and another pt teacher. Then there's a TA specifically for a SN child.

So dates, the public consultation started on 19 may and closes 16 June. The governors were stunned when the LEA came to meet them,they thought it was to discuss building numbers, not to move to closure. The govereners want to keep it open, as do the parents and the local community.

Things we are looking at/doing:

- flexi-schooling where homeschooling children come in pt
-social media
-petition
-leafleting over a massive area

Not sure what else to do...

admission Sun 29-May-16 21:35:45

From the above post I have been able to work out which school you are talking. The consultation is saying that the GB agree, along with the Diocese that the school cannot continue in its present form.
With the number of pupils that you have the situation is just untenable both financially and from a education point of view.
Realistically the idea that a further 7 pupils makes the school viable is not sensible. It might make some sense in a purely financial setting but you will still have less pupils in the school than in one class in most primary schools. There are schools within about 5 miles, which would make much more sense from a purely educational point of view.

Changebagsandgladrags Sun 29-May-16 23:40:48

Thanks

So, realistically, we are flogging a dead horse here? Numbers have really only dropped significantly since Easter. So it seems to me that they could recover to that number (yes we'll still have less pupils than an average class).

The next nearest school has a very low number too (under 30) so that's why we thought some amalgamation might work (vicar keen).

I'm a sure if we got the magic seven we'd continue to build.

There are schools within 5 miles, all C of E. I've no problem with that personally. I'd rather our school stayed open though.

bojorojo Mon 30-May-16 00:06:48

I don't know your school, but I too cannot see how such low numbers provide a realistic and sensible educational opportunity. It really does seem that the Catholic Church want out and, of course, they are the major force on the Governing Body. It would be difficult to federate with a C of E school and you seem to be marooned. I suppose you could all transfer to the next small school with 30 children. That would, at least, help to keep them alive.

I spoke to someone I know casually who is a governor of a very small school and it had no Reception children starting in September. They have 24 in the whole school and no children in Y 1 either. They are C of E and the Governors had never thought of federating and becoming the junior school to a federerated infant school. The Diocese had not suggested it to them either. It seems crazy to me that in rural areas schools are fighting to survive and the most obvious method of surviving is not even thought about!

I know it must be really hard to see a school in such a difficult position and I do wish you well but if you could transfer to the other school and they could possibly employ some of your staff, there may be continuity.

Changebagsandgladrags Mon 30-May-16 09:55:14

The education they receive, I cannot fault. In the few months my two have been there I've seen a massive improvement. I think the majority of parents wouldn't send their children to the other school. Some travel quite far to get to us and they have nearer non Catholic schools. I'd also be then reluctant to choose it thinking it will be next.

We have none in Reception either, but five in Yr 1. On the books for September we have one confirmed and two who are interested.

bojorojo Mon 30-May-16 21:21:29

I think I have worked out which school you are too. Having looked at your website, the development plan makes no mention of how the school will improve by expanding the number of children at the school. The education your children receive must be of less quality than they could receive if they had more children to work with. Do you not consider sports teams, music ensembles and drama to be education too?

As you have a large catchment area, you no doubt have parents travelling to get a Catholic education in a rural environment. Personally I would not bother and if you have lost more children since April, parents are voting with their feet and the brand of the school is not strong enough. I do not see how the governors could do anything else as it appears they did not see fit to put recruiting children in their Development plan. Four of the Governors are appointed by the Diocese so they needed to work with the Diocese and market the school. Perhaps you just do not have enough parents who want the religious aspect of the school in your area and feel a good education can be found elsewhere.

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