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Are School Federations Ever a Good Thing?

(30 Posts)
OrlandoTheMarmaladeCat Tue 22-May-07 11:42:39

My kids are at a primary school recently viewed as Outstanding by Ofsted. Fantastic teachers, and ambitious head. Head has been assisting two days a week in near-by primary school which is on special measures. They've got unhappy, demotivated teachers with an interim head.

Diocese, LEA, Head and (allegedly) both governing bodies are all for a Federation on the basis that it will help school on special measures, and that it will offer wider opportunities for staff at successful school.

I can quite see how failing school will be helped, and I am more than happy to help. BUT with teachers at successful school already working flat out, when are they supposed to go and teach at failing school - either in the small hours of the night (not exactly practical) or when they should be teaching my kids. And if they're not teaching my kids, it means we get supply teachers in. And where's the continuity in that?

I'm not totally against the Federation, I just wanted to know if there are circumstances in which it is a good thing and I would love to hear good examples! At the moment all I can see is that it is great for the Diocese and the LEA (only one HT is needed, economies of scale re purchasing etc), great for the failing school (otherwise they close) but not good for our school. Help me out here!

brimfull Tue 22-May-07 11:51:37

Sorry no exp of this but I totally understand why you are concerned.

What do the teachers themselves think of it?

Lilymaid Tue 22-May-07 11:59:06

There is a federation of two secondary schools operating in Cambridge Parkside Federation which seems to be having some success in improving standards etc in the "failing" school.

OrlandoTheMarmaladeCat Tue 22-May-07 14:03:19

The teachers are reluctant to talk openly (as HT is rather 'difficult' to work for so I understand) but by all accouns around 80% are very anti. They have been told they will have to work at the other school in order to help bring standards up there.

Which is all well and good, but it is the teachers that make our school so darn good and frankly I'm not impressed that we would lose our staff albeit on a sporadic basis. What's happened to continuity? My children don't want 5 different teachers in a week!

Thanks for the reference Lilymaid - I'll have a look. I'm not against Federations per se, I think they're brilliant for helping failing schools etc. I'm just not sure about the impact on the good school.

HalstowMum3 Sat 01-May-10 08:02:16

Our school is in a similar situation. The Head has been helping a neighbouring school off Speicial Measures - Now we have just been informed that the Partnership will be formalised into a Federation: Are Governors allowed to do this with no consultation at all at either school?

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 09:59:03

Ds's head has spent a couple of terms as interim head at a failing school. He's back now, and working closely with a couple of other schools to raise standards etc.
IMO, he wouldn't do it if he felt it would be detrimental to his own school (those league tables MATTER round here hmm.
DD is at a federation secondary school which is outstanding- personally I am all for them as it improves standards.

Notmyusualname63 Sat 01-May-10 13:54:43

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 16:21:15

Yes failing probably wrong choice of word- perhaps it should have read a school with retired head, which needed direction wink
Yes on the hill nmun63- are you as well?

Notmyusualname63 Sat 01-May-10 16:40:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 16:46:46

Ah interesting.
I know your new head smile- not socially.

Notmyusualname63 Sat 01-May-10 16:48:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 17:06:04

Not really but I do visit schools. (cryptic)

Notmyusualname63 Sat 01-May-10 17:10:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 17:14:38

Well I am getting ridiculously excited about ds going there- he will meet many boys from your school!!! The yr 9's there have just done GSCE modules early for the first time to good results.
Am still getting pitying looks from some of the other mums at his school, and "can't you afford to send him private". I discussed THAT one with the head who was appalled. He is very pro CB.
Are you a NM resident?

Notmyusualname63 Sat 01-May-10 17:21:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

deaddei Sat 01-May-10 17:42:46

Glad to hear that. DD is friendly with some of the girls from your school.
I know maroon sweatshirt school- new head there now.
I know Merton schools too. wink

HalstowMum3 Sat 01-May-10 23:14:35

Thanks for the info, Notmyusualname63 - two more questions as it sounds like there might be little we can do other than except our "Executive Head" actually means "part time Head".
Has anyone out there been at a school where you have successfully stopped a federation going ahead?
If it's going to go ahead, what can be done to counter the problems?

mummytime Sun 02-May-10 13:17:35

My DCs infant and primary schools have been federated. Although the head is shared they have 3 assistant heads, which helps with the work load. Also he has always been very good at delegating the workload, so lots of senior teachers have some extra responsibility.

I have wondered about a very good seniors near hear which is federated with another school a few junctions around the M25 (I thought the federated school was closer, but was wrong apparently). I'm not sure as a teacher I would want to work there from a purely practical point of view.

teamcullen Sun 02-May-10 18:08:30

OP I was in your exact shoes four years ago.

My DCs attend the outstanding school, head offered to manage the school down the road. I dont think they were in special measures bu they were loosing numbers due to being between two outstanding schools. The schools were already over subscribed so the Archdiosis would have had a difficult job of finding the children in the small school places if the school closed.

Four years down the line, the federation has worked wonderfully for the smaller school, but DCs school has suffered. Not dramatically, the standards are just as good if not better, but the staff are undeniably (sp) under much more pressure, as the HT has to delagate a lot of responsibility in order to run two schools.

The DCs at the other school seem to stand HT on a pedistal where as our DCs get the shity end of the stick.

Although the teachers in our school tend to give time and resources to the other school, we dont get anything back from the teachers of their school.

However the standard of education has not suffered and now a lot more DCs are getting the oportunities that my DCs have which they didnt have before. I dont object to that. I just feel that being a federation has not had any kind of positive effect on the school which was outstanding. There seems to have been a lot of taking from the other school and very little back.

violetqueen Sun 02-May-10 18:49:29

teamcullen - good to hear from someone with experience .
I can't really see how it can be anything other than a strain on the general staff at the outstanding school.
Think a different story for HT ,some of whom don't have much of a life /work balance ,and some of whom have tremendous egos .
It is an area of concern as I believe more than one political party see this as they way forward .
And with the shortage of applicants for HT's posts ,I think it will increase .

teamcullen Sun 02-May-10 19:00:27

violetqueen You've got our HT sussed grin

HalstowMum3 Mon 03-May-10 03:08:17

teamcullen Were Parents at your school consulted before you went into Federation? And is there anything Parents can do to avoid the experience you describe? I fear we're about to go down route you have...
I'm probably being selfish, but I don't want to mess with a winning formula. Feel unhappy and totally powerless.

teamcullen Mon 03-May-10 08:46:08

Halstowmum3 We were consulted in the form of a very biast letter explaining what would happen, how good it would be to help the other school and as "good christians" (faith school) we should support our neighbours.

The letter had a proforma asking us if we were for or against the proposals. I know at the time I was the only parent in the group I talk with who was unsure of the proposal and couldnt see what good it would do for our children. But the other parents thorght it was a lovely idea that our HT was going to help another school.

After a couple of years they sent out another proforma asking if we thorght the federated schools had worked. The same letter went to both schools. It was obvious that all the parents in the other school were delighted, their DCs were suddenly being taught in a whole new and exciting way and getting oportunities they never had before. Such as trips in the UK and abroad and the chance to learn to play an instrument. All the things the teachers in our school had spent many years building on, they had overnight. Im sure on paper it would have looked like the majority of parents were happy with the federation.

I dont know if you will be able to stop your school becoming a federation but if you can, ask for a meeting where parents can raise concerns.

You are essentially going to end up with a part time HT, ask how your school will run when HT is busy at other school, Who will be in charge and will they be able to make decisions. How do they propose keep standards high when your DCs teacher is being pulled in two directions.

Also will you keep two Governing bodies or will the governers merge. We only have the one governing body for both schools. If I were you, I would fight to keep the governers seperate, at least for the first few years. That way you will have somebody who has your schools interest as its first priority if things are not going right.

I would also want to know that the teachers were fully aware of what the implications would be on them and that they were happy. I think in our school, they went in with their eyes shut and there was a lot of discord under the surface.

I think you need to be selfish. Im sorry I didnt raise my concerns and kick up a fuss at the time. If I was in your shoes now I would definatly be fighting for the governing bodies to be kept seperate as the schools will probably become federated anyway. And ask for clear guidlines on how your school will be managed.

violetqueen Mon 03-May-10 09:44:40

I really think that this is a big issue ( I bet for example that the HT will get a massive pay rise ,but what extra renumeration will go to the footsoldiers ? ) ,but do wonder what can be done .
My experience ( which involved a HT who was given a chauffer driven car out of tax payers expense to ferry between the 2 schools ) has been of sham consultations - lots of spin ,no real info to parents ,no public meetings .
But even with a genuine consultation ,I don't think the outcome would be different .
The requirement seems to be to carry out a consultation ,not pay attention to the outcome .
Halstow mum ,I think the teachers won't be allowed to voice their views ,but it might be worth asking the NUT and other unions ( for ancillary staff ) for their view and advice ?
Oh and the governors of your school ,of course .

HalstowMum3 Mon 03-May-10 10:30:24

Thank you both. How depressing.
shock sad angry

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