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Sedbergh and Casterton Merger

(36 Posts)
ALong151 Tue 19-Mar-13 17:38:31

I read about the merger; does anyone know why parents are objecting to it though?Has anyone heard anything adverse about these schools individually or about the merger? More importantly, would the merger have any speculated repercussions on the students or staff which may affect the performance of the school in general?

timidviper Tue 19-Mar-13 17:46:16

Don't know anything about this particular merger but bear in mind that some parents will object to any change whether it is in the best interests of the school and pupils or not.

In our area there was a merger recently with one of the schools clearly in a position that it would not survive if the merger did not go through and yet a group of parents tried to stop it. Although the merger was not ideal, the alternatives were all far worse.

TwoBoiledEggs Tue 19-Mar-13 22:44:40

Well it's a merger in inverted commas! Really, a takeover by Sedburgh who have been struggling immensely to get enough girls to justify their "co ed" label. No wonder the parents are pissed off. They signed up for single sex education and I have heard on the grapevine of girls leaving this Easter after the news to go to other schools.

AnteaterAgain Wed 20-Mar-13 04:45:06

Very very bad form by the Casterton governors (who do they think they are??)
Casterton just needed a direction and some marketing. The parents (customers/stakeholders, call them what you want) should be and are fuming.. Twoboiledeggs is bang on with her analysis. Sad times. Sedbergh are just underlining their charachter with this move. Think Bentham etc. The school could not be futher apart.

Ronaldo Wed 20-Mar-13 05:46:20

Well, if there wasnt a merger its likely both schools would be down the pan. Is that what you want? Schools do not merge for nothing. It isnt in the interests of a strong school to take over a struggling one either so knock the idea of one being secure and the other not on the head. Both arelike as not struggling and can make a go between them.

Or are you from the opposition making bad mouth so that the kids leave and they go down the pan anyway - leaving more for you of course?

Also think about the teachers and staff too. A merger will mean redundancies as one school will not need all the staff, academic and non academic that two do (curring wages and overheads is one reason for doing it). but they are likely to keepa higher staffing level in a merger than a closure and it is a smoother transition for the kids.

I bet I could tell you what is going on behind closed doors but I wont - it would be speculation but based on having been in a similar position in a different school.

Just think will you?

TwoBoiledEggs Wed 20-Mar-13 06:21:23

ronaldo Clearly you do not know the schools. Sedburgh is a highly successful school. Not in the slightest bit failing, either by numbers or financially.
Casterton is also not failing, but IMO needed better governors and a proper future planning system, including marketing. At heart, it is a wonderful school and ought to have had a bright future.

Mutteroo Wed 20-Mar-13 10:19:18

I can understand the anger as DD's school merged (was swallowed up whole) by a neighbouring school. To be honest, I was one who didn't mind as DD's school needed saving! However there were many parents who chose other schools rather than pick the savour school.

Much of the concern was over the fees which were higher at the other school, but also the schools had a different ethos. Combining those was never going to happen. For staff at both schools, it was a terrible time. All had to reapply & many at DD's old school lost their jobs. One was quite fortunate as he gained a place at my son's school & he truly was a superb, inspiring teacher. DS was a very lucky boy. Most of the teaching positions at the new merged school, went to staff already at the other school. Make of that what you will.

As I said, for us it was a good thing & DD completed her GCSEs in a much happier place. Parents at Casterton & Sedburgh need to ask some questions as it seems odd to merge two schools if neither, on paper, have any need to? May be that one or both are not as solvent as they appear?

Mutteroo Wed 20-Mar-13 10:20:33

Please note I am not implying any financial irregularities at either school. wouldn't wish to start a rumour, however it seems odd to merge schools if there's no reason to?

housepiglet Wed 20-Mar-13 16:29:20

TwoBoiledEggs said:

"...takeover by Sedburgh who have been struggling immensely to get enough girls to justify their "co ed" label."

My understanding is that Sedbergh hasn't struggled to attract girls. They simply haven't had room for all the girls who have applied. They'll have that room now.

housepiglet Wed 20-Mar-13 16:36:40

I meant to say also, to the OP, that some Casterton parents are objecting because they signed up for single-sex education at a school with a marked academic bent. Sedbergh is a great school, but it's co-educational and historically has been less academically successful than Casterton. It therefore offers a very different style of education to that which the Casterton parents chose for their daughters.

The unhappy Casterton parents have also objected because the Casterton governors failed to consult them before agreeing to the merger. There may have been valid financial reasons for that: I don't know, and therefore I'm not attempting to comment.

Ronaldo Wed 20-Mar-13 22:13:22

ronaldo Clearly you do not know the schools. Sedburgh is a highly successful school. Not in the slightest bit failing, either by numbers or financially

No, but I know many schools like it. It is necessary to continue to be financially viable. If as was suggestedthe school is short on space that may well be an issue in regard to finances too.

I knew two schools who merged for a reson like that. The had the buildings of the one school and the larger intake from the other. They sold the other school for development and the future was secured.

Had they not done that neither school would have thrived - one because of limited space and the other because of lower numbers and large overheads.

Ronaldo Wed 20-Mar-13 22:16:24

Why postersget the hump because aschools governors do not consult thenm is beyond me. Who says they need to? I doubt the consulted staff either. Thats the way it is.

If you dont like it,you can change schools. Many often do but its a drop in the ocean and is unlikely to be a big deal for the governors.

timidviper Wed 20-Mar-13 22:28:26

The argument that parents should have been consulted by governors was used by the parents in our area but ultimately private schools are businesses and when did you ever hear of the directors of a struggling business asking their customers if they would approve of them merging with another company?

Interestingly, in our case, it was apparently a merger but one school was already part of an educational trust (so had more clout if you like). The financially struggling school was being propped up by a local educational trust which, now it is not spending funds on an ailing private school, has been able to return to its original mission of spending to assist education of those in the borough who cannot afford it.

Personally, even as someone who has sent DCs to independent school, I would sooner charities were able to spend their money on those that need it rather than subsidising those who can afford to pay.

Roisin Fri 22-Mar-13 14:36:34

Historically the two schools were both single sex, but geographically close.
Nationally there is a lower demand now for s/s education, hence Sedbergh going co-ed and Casterton's falling roles. (They have boys to 11).

The merger means that the junior and prep schools (co-ed) will be on the Casterton site. And the Senior school (co-ed) will be on the Sedbergh site.

AnteaterAgain Fri 22-Mar-13 22:19:30

The sadness about this merger is the loss of Casterton as it will most certainly be swallowed into the Sedbergh brand. The Casterton governors, if they were true to the school rather than the business, would should have gone public with their financial problems 12 months ago. Some sharp new appointments and clear goals could have saved Casterton and let it thrive.

Shocking work by the badly advised governors.

Anybody who knows these two schools will know how they could never coexist due to the completly different ethos.

BagWoman Mon 25-Mar-13 13:26:14

Well parents have the power don't they? They simply vote with their feet. That's the beauty of paying for indy education.

CBJAY Tue 02-Apr-13 21:00:13

Merger is not that popular with the Sedbergh Junior School parents never mind Casterton ones - we chose Sedbergh Junior School because it wasn't big with loads of facilities - there are endless numbers of preps like that around - we liked the small family type boarding houses, small numbers and the close proximity to Senior School. We are now supposed to be overjoyed that our children will go to a type of school we didn't want, miles away from where it used to be. We, like a lot of others would have waited until 13 to go to Sedbergh if we knew this was happening!!
Agree with AntEaterAgain - the two schools are complete opposites with regards to the type of child they suit - I wouldn't send a shy or sensitive girl to Sedbergh - ones I know are very feisty and outspoken!

TwoBoiledEggs Thu 04-Apr-13 08:29:31

If you ask anyone about Sedburgh having too many girls for the space available they look rather baffled! That's nonsense spin IMO.
Personally, as a parent I do feel very strongly that while parents can "vote with their feet" and move, they are not merely customers of the product. They are more like investors as for parents it's a long term affair - you are effectively trusting the school over a period of 5/7/11 years to invest themselves and their school in your child in return. Not suddenly change ethos and location and size and headship and governance and character and and and...
Personally, I think Sedburgh will run the prep school at Casterton for a few years and then suddenly "listen to parents" like CBJAY and well as "listening to the market" and sell the assets. Sad :-(

hels71 Thu 04-Apr-13 22:38:11

Both schools are very different. I think the above poster is correct when they suggest SJS will run at CAsterton for a few years then the site will be sold.
As far as I am aware some of the reasons CAsterton parents are upset are:

They chose a small single sex school, with a good record of academic results for their daughters. All of a sudden they are being told that from September their children will be going to a large co-ed school with less good academic results. They were given no warning, no time to think about this and look for alternative schools...just "This is what will be happening, isn't it good"

The letter talks about merger and keeping CAsterton ethos etc...but in fact the school will be Sedbergh with Sedbergh uniform, Sedbergh hours etc...

The way the news was given out to the girls was shocking. It seems they were told in an assembly that from September they would be part of Sedbergh....

Parents of girls who started in September are understandably unimpressed at having made large finacial outlay for nothing. Some had even moved house to enable their girls to go to the school.

It was implied that girls who will be half way through GCSE and A levels in September would be able to continue the same courses. However some are now saying that girls will have to redo the whole of year 10/12 and start again.

Parents got together a plan that could have saved the school. The governors refused to meet with them until after the takeover (NOT a merger) had gone through. Even if they had said "yes we thought of that but it would not work" it would not have hurt to meet parents.

Had the governors handled this differently there would have been much less anger and frustration even if the end result had been the same. If parents had actually had chance to think about Sedbergh, to visit it and talk about what it could offer AND have plenty of time to look at other schools if that was what they wanted then maybe there would be less anger.

However there is some talk of the merger maybe being overturned...I don't have the details of this so don't know exactly how.....but it is being mentioned on the Westmorland Gazette and on the Save CAsterton facebook page.

PRogerson Mon 08-Apr-13 09:45:57

Just to clarify a few points, far from struggling for girls at Sedbergh School, they have a vast waiting list. The decision to merge with Casterton was not done to save Sedbergh, more to ensure the Casterton name lives on, albeit in a different guise. Sedbergh was already in the process of sorting out a 9th boarding house, as the 2 girls houses were becoming over crowded, which would allow them to accomodate all those on the waiting list, the addition of the Casterton girls will merely enhance those numbers, and increase Sedberghs academic success. I am told that the Casterton site will be a very long term location, I hear the comments regarding the history at Bentham, however SJS has long been too big for the Sedbergh site, and this move is ideal for the prep school and Casterton village itself, the SJS parents are well known for being very enthusiastic parents, who themselves will add colour to the village along with their children. Sedberghs goal is to make the Casterton site the premier prep school in the North of England,which it will be, and to act as the primary feeder school for Sedbergh Senior School. I fully understand the Casterton Parents being upset and angry regarding this, as they signed up for an all girls school, however in terms of any underhand reason for the merger, then absolutely not, this is being done for the benefit of all.

CBJAY Mon 08-Apr-13 17:28:32

As a SJS parent I know what PRogerson says is correct - the senior girls houses are overcrowded. Having said that I would rather they hadn't merged with Casterton for all the reasons I said before -

TwoBoiledEggs Mon 08-Apr-13 19:58:46

CBJAY Shame he is wrong about everything else though... And the thing about the girls houses is misleading. I am afraid the name of the newspaper brought him here. He has been shot down by Casterton supporters on newspaper comments elsewhere for his misleading views, (dead easy for anyone to search that if interested - tons onthe merger there) as well as being accused of being a governor... He claimed not, just an interested bystander, but he joined mumsnet just to post one arrogant post. Odd.

CBJAY Mon 08-Apr-13 22:34:14

I just wish we would be given some information on what is going on. We have had one meeting with SJS head at start of March and that's been it!! Haven't seen the Casterton site nor been told how many of the girls are coming over into the Junior school in September or in what years they are going into. We don't even know what teachers are staying! All sorts of rumours going round obviously! Would have been far more sensible to have taken more time over this rather than this mad rush for September.
I can tell the Casterton parents that there are some extremely bright girls at SJS that are academic scholars and the children are also heavily streamed so I wouldn't worry about academic standards for your girls. Its more whether your daughter would suit SJS as the whole ethos of the two schools is different. As I said before I wouldn't send a sensitive or shy girl there as the girls I know are very strong and outspoken.

Corunum Thu 25-Apr-13 10:15:46

I have read this thread with interest and have to add something to the mix. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree that being able to vote with your feet is a great way of teaching these governors a lesson in manners, what do you do when your daughter is half-way through her GCSEs or A levels? My daughter is at Casterton and is in the lower 6th. We were promised (by Mr Fleck, the Sedbergh head teacher, who is now the head teacher of the new entity) that their would be 'continuity of teachers, of classes and of courses' for girls in this position at the meeting on 1 March - yet this has not proved to be true. One of my daughter's teachers has been made redundant - he has successfully guided girls through the A level course for years (As, Bs etc). The Sedbergh teacher who will now take over (if she goes there) has never had a pupil gain higher than a D - and that was with a different board. If we vote with our feet, my daughter will have to start her 6th form again.

Why couldn't the merger have been announced for September 2014? That way, the girls in my daughter's position would have had a chance to complete their courses and girls who didn't want to go to Sedbergh (I now understand that the majority have indeed voted with their feet) could have had 12 months to find an alternative.

It is no wonder that parents from both schools are angry - this has been handled SO badly and I understand that this is now reflecting on Sedbergh in ways that they had not anticipated. Bad for the pupils, bad for the teachers, bad for Casterton and now bad for Sedbergh - well done governors for a job well done!

Anthracite Sat 27-Apr-13 20:20:08

The Casterton bursar was on Escape to the Country the other week.

It must have been a bit of a shock to her to relocate from a perfectly stable job, and then to discover a merger a few weeks into the job.

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