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School wants to form a Federation, anyone with experience?

(12 Posts)
TurboTheChicken Mon 12-Oct-15 12:40:47

DS primary school has sent out a consultation document to parents saying that they intend to form a federation with another primary school - twenty minutes drive away.

The document they have sent is biased in the favour of the federation and lists only benefits. It's also quite presumptive that this will go ahead!

We already share a head teacher which I feel really does't work, the management team is weak and the school is a bit of a shambles.

Has anyone got any experience of federations? Or can anyone recommend some unbiased information sources?

We have a meeting with the school tomorrow and I would like to go prepared with the right questions to ask! Thank you.

ElsieMc Mon 12-Oct-15 12:54:55

I have just moved my GS who lives with me to a Catholic Federation School, away from one with a non-teaching full time head who was incredibly weak.

My misgivings were pretty much the same as what you have stated. The head now runs two schools around five miles apart. The second one has had a series of poor headteachers and she is a strong head. I raised this as an issue when I visited and their response was they have two assistant headteachers at each school, both of whom teach. There is a "young" feeling about the school rather than the rather tired, heading to retirement and coasting feel of the previous primary.

The homework for my GS is much more intense and focused. There is very little "slippage" time and I have worked out he is spending at least 2-2 1/2 hours per week more on work.

There is the issue of avoiding supply teachers as one is generally moved in from the other federation school should staff be off sick.

I realise I am also listing positives only and I can see you have little faith in the management team and an off site head could make this weaker. I also realise that it is a cost saving measure. Someone who has more experience should hopefully come along to advise you.

futureme Mon 12-Oct-15 12:58:01

We have 4 schools together as a "trust" with one superhead. I don't particularly like it as it seems from the outside that the supehead swans in makes policies and swans out without really knowing any of the children. I wouldn't like it as a teacher, but I can't actually say how its working as its hard to know as a parent. Maybe its better...

I suspect in reality it will get "better results" (oh yes we are very very very sats focused) and every child will know their targets (grrr) but at cost to the homely , knowing each child, love of learning environment it was here. That could be specific to us though.

TurboTheChicken Mon 12-Oct-15 13:03:18

Thanks for taking the time to respond. It's good to hear your experience, I'm not necessarily looking for negatives - maybe just an independant source of positives!

I suppose my worry is that so much hinges on a strong head teacher. I don't have a lot of faith in ours although he's a nice guy. He's also recently suffered a heart attack and is phasing back into work part time. So we currently have a part time, part time head.

OurBlanche Mon 12-Oct-15 13:08:35

They may be getting ahead of the rush for when they are forcibly Academised.

My sister is in the same position in her primary school. She either chooses another school to confederate with or gets one foisted on her in the next 2 - 3 years. She had thought they had sidestepped the issue 2 years ago, but the latest government blatherings have shown that she was premature in her celebration.

In case anyone is wondering what Academisation has to do with it, it is an extension of the 'Eton must share its best practice with failing local schools' twattery. DSis is in an Outstanding primary and they MUST share their teachers, facilities, know how, etc with partner schools. If she chooses her partner she can reduce the negative impact it will have on her and her staff. In her case the best fit would be a primary that is in special measures, it has facilities and staff that DSis does not, and vice versa. But the nearest, and most likely partner, has less that she will be able to work with.

The problem is that once you have federated it is really hard to unfederate. So if the Academisation does not happen then many schools will have spent their own money on crap that does not benefit them. That has another knock on as a school's 'savings' are part of the measure of how much funding they attract, think of it as match funding (it isn't, but that is the nearest real world example I can think of).

All in all, the next 5 years will be overly 'interesting' for most levels of education. Another reason I no longer teach in FE and resigned as a primary school governor!

TurboTheChicken Mon 12-Oct-15 13:17:13

Futureme I suppose that's one of my fears. I moved DS from a large London primary school to a small rural school that I felt would provide the love of education and be able to be more child focussed than performance focussed. I don't want to lose that.

OurBlanche That's really interesting, I suspect that might be part of the school's agenda. I need to have a closer look at the other school's OFSTED and facilities - they are smaller than our school but seem to have a better reputation. I do have a lot of sympathy for teachers and they way their goals are constantly being changed.

futureme Mon 12-Oct-15 17:14:22

That's interesting Ourblanche - our school had always been outstanding, was an amazing school but got "good" at the last ofsted. (Probably due to lack of focus on targets, sats....)

The school down the road is target driven ( a reason why we didn't choose it) but is getting outstanding. It very much feels like they are coming to share their "best practice" as in tell the poor school down the road how to teach... when in fact I'd preferred our school. It must be horribly patronising as teachers if that's explicitly the ethos that these mergers are taking place.

admission Mon 12-Oct-15 21:47:16

There significant advantages of co-operation between schools, not the least of which is that for many rural schools it is about being able to survive as a school.
Federation is one way and becoming a Multi-academy Trust (MAT) is another. Both have advantages and disadvantages but one of the advantages of a federation is that a school can actually decide to leave a federation. In a MAT you are in it for 7 years at the very least and then it will be difficult to get out of.
Of course all this is pointless if the calibre of the people in charge is weak, because you are simply reproducing a weaker bigger set of schools. An executive head over 2 or more schools needs to be good for it to work as does the "head of school" in charge when the Executive Head is elsewhere. But that is the same in any school in any type of system, so much of the capability of the school starts with the person who is the head teacher. At present there is a real dearth of people coming forward to be head teachers, so that is a real worry for the system as a whole.

Millymollymama Wed 14-Oct-15 00:47:14

No school can afford to not be performance focussed! ! There is no such school but they can remain friendly and child centred whilst doing this. They are not mutually exclusive and good schools do all these things. Each child must make good or better progress. How can any school do this without knowing the child and focussing on how that child can learn?

To understand how a school can be classed outstanding, you need to read the latest inspection framework from Ofsted. For example a school cannot be outstanding if pupil premium children are not making good progress. Targets for children have been set for nearly 20 years. It is not new. The levels of progress expected are now higher. Most parents do want their children to make excellent progress so schools do everything they can to help the child achieve this. That means the teachers know the individual children.

The federated schools near me have been very successful. One model that worked well, but the schools are only 5 minutes apart, was that one became the infant and the other the junior. It is vital to have a first class Head (at every school in fact) but when they federate, your weak Head may not get the job. You could have a brilliant head with excellent deputies and assistants. The job may look more attractive and get better applicants. If numbers are dodgy, it is an excellent way to stay open and keep the schools and villages alive.

ReallyTired Wed 14-Oct-15 02:01:50

A federation of primaries is a good way to keep costs down like facilities management, human resources and ICT support. It's easy to forget that LEA schools are essentially a massive federation. Although LEA schools do not have a superhead, they do have LEA advisors. The LEA inspectors/ advisors do have the power to force an improvement plan on a school or sack the head. Many policies in LEA schools are designed by people who do not know the children.

mamadoc Wed 14-Oct-15 23:05:16

Federation and academies are what the government thinks are a good idea. They are very strongly pushing it. The government aspires for all schools to be academies. In the long term it will be hard for schools to resist this.

I'm a governor of a federation of 2 schools and I think that 1. It does have advantages and 2. Since the Tories are in for at least another 5 yrs now they will force this through anyway so best embrace it positively than be taken over by a national academy chain.

Budgets are shrinking and the economies of scale that we can make by having two schools mean we don't have to cut staff

We employ specialist teachers eg art, music, pe across the 2 sites that one school couldn't afford on its own and we do reshuffle staff to avoid supply use

We share facilities eg sports ground, mini bus so we get maximum use and we put on joint events with economies of scale eg can attract outside speakers

The staff seem to like it. They have more colleagues to network with so are not isolated and more opportunities for career development. We never have a problem attracting good staff.

People did worry about the head's time being divided but the assistant heads for each site are very good. Tbh she gets paid more now and has a new challenge and she might have left and gone elsewhere otherwise.

It's the brave new world and you probably, as a parent have very little real choice as its the governors decision.

redskybynight Thu 15-Oct-15 11:42:48

My DC are at (separate) schools that are part of the same academy trust - which comprises a 2 campus secondary school, plus 4(?) primary schools.

I have to admit I've only seen positives - it's great for the primaries to share resources from the secondary, and there are reduced admin/overhead costs from having a 2 campus secondary (which is really run as 2 separate schools). Plus a lot of sharing of good practice all round.

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