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When do LA's think about closing schools ?(16 Posts)
My DC are are a small village school (approx 100 pupils) numbers have been dropping and most recent Ofsted wasn't great. Apparently September intake is even lower this year and I'm getting a bit concerned. My children are happy and thriving so I don't want to jump ship but what's the risk of closure and how much notice do you get ?
I have no knowledge of this whatsoever.
However if you had a PAN of 15 in 7 year groups that would mean 105 children, a 15 in yR and then 30 in y1/2, y3/4, y5/6. That would be sustainable I would think. If you can't fill a PAN of 15 that would make the school pretty small and low numbers would mean not much money coming in. That and a poor Ofsted I can see would be worrying. How close are other schools?
What does Ofsted “isn’t great” mean? Was it Good or Requires Improvement? If it’s the latter, then you’re right to be worried, but if it’s Good then it could just be a numbers fluctuation thing. My dc are at a school with a PAN of 10, and some years they don’t fill reception due to the catchment but the school is popular and some years they go over PAN too when there are spaces and the demand is there.
Also, what is the leadership like? If the HT is good (and governors) and the Ofsted thought so too, then things will hopefully pick up. Whereas if they criticised leadership and you think HT is poor too then it could be a slippery slope.
RI on Ofsted. Weak HT. It's not looking great is it ? Other schools within 5 miles are full.
It does also depend on general local school capacity. School I know of went from a full 5 class school of 150 down to a 3 class school of less than 80 (Ofsted fluctuated between RI, Good and SM, 3 HTs) but diodn't close because it served a relatively isolated but sizeable village, and the 3 other schools within 5 miles were all full.
Now back up to almost full numbers as it was turned around.
If they replace HT or give them support, things could improve really quickly.
On the other hand, they may not.
If you put names down on waiting list for other schools then a space (or spaces) may come up tomorrow or in 3 years.
If other people jump ship and you stay put, you may end up in a great little school, or a school closing and no option as to where you go next.
I stuck with our primary for years, always slightly embarrassed to say my DDs went there. Then 6 years in they finally got a great HT and it is a super school now and expanding. Shame DD2 got to y4 before that started to happen.
LA may be more likely to issue academy order than to close the school...meaning the school would need to find an academy willing to take it on
Closing a school is a last resort and if other schools in the area are full and predicted pupil numbers for the area are high enough to fill all schools including yours, then I would imagine they’d try to find an academy trust to take the school on rather than close it
That said if leadership is weak and there are no signs of/plans for improvement it may be worth thinking about whether it’s the right school for your children longer term anyway
It does also depend on whether it is '100 with a capacity for 120 in 4 classes' or '100 with a capacity for 210 in 7 classes, still working with 6 classes'.
Essentially, 30 pupils comfortably pays for a teacher & associated overheads. 25 still does so, though less comfortably and you may find e.g. that the school should share a HT with another school. Class sizes of <20 are economically quite exciting in most counties - rural shires are some of the worst funded, so the combination of few children and low funding per pupil squeezes budgets to the max.
Is it a LA school or an academy / part of an academy chain? How academised, in general, is your local authority in terms of primary schools? You may find the other alternative is being forced to join a MAT, which gives greater security but significantly less freedom of manoevre / culture and the possibility of e.g. shared senior staff..
No academies anywhere local that I know of. Quite alot of local building but school site is also a prime building location !
The usual answer now for most LAs is that they will not close a school because of all the hassle of doing it - you have to go through consultations etc, plus it is always politically a difficult issue.
What normally happens is that it is death by a 1000 cuts, parents start to get twitchy and vote with their feet and if there are sufficient other local schools with places, you quickly loose a good few pupils, which just then makes the situation even worse. Eventually the school will get to the point where it is unable to run financially and the governing board will then have the difficult task of asking the LA to shut the school down.
However if the other local schools are full as you suggest then the school is simply likely to be left open but struggling along. If the head is weak and deemed requires improvement as a school, then there will be another ofsted within 2 years. The outcome of that will potentially be special measures which will mean the school becoming an academy providing that they can find a suitable sponsor school.
As a small school, unless it is sustainable, then it isn't an inviting prospect to an Academy Trust. The only school locally that was like this entered into a collaboration with another school after the head teacher left. It had a temporary executive head teacher- the head teacher from the other school - that then became permanent. This meant that it was paying half the salary for a head teacher who had a comparatively modest pay rise. That brought about improvement and saved money. However, it was only possible because the head spent time in the school based on need and not equally split between the two. The school it collaborated and then federated with promoted the deputy to head of school but the smaller school, which required the support still has a deputy head.
If other schools are full, and houses are being built, this school will be needed. The Governors should be working with the LA to improve the school and this should mean mentoring and support for the Head. Sometimes poor Heads call it a day and move on, though. A better head would be the best option. I agree that schools wither on the vine now but if you have no alternative, think about how you and other parents can drive improvements.
The worrying thing for me would be that the LA and Governors let this happen. Probably complacency. Therefore they may need new Governors who know how to improve the school. It’s unfortunate, but teachers don’t want to work with RI Heads. They do want to work for Heads who make a difference.
It remains to be seen how many parents walk away if there are no alternative school places. It is better for everyone if the parents understand the difficulties the school has but hold the management to account by staying put. Expecting better might make the Governors jump to it!
Is it an LA or church school?
Basically what admission said. My children go to a similar sized school - the LA will rarely actively close a school down, but generally are crap at providing support and don't support the extra demands that small schools have. All schools lost £40,000 off their block grant last year - if you are a 2000 pupil secondary, that's bad enough, but when you are a 4 form entry primary of 100 pupils then it's a teacher. Except you can't go below 4 teachers because of infant class size limits and then what is left to cut? The minimum funding formula may kick in but it's very tight.
Solutions are for the school to significantly raise its game (you really need the governors to be driving this forward, and a strong head), for more houses to be built in the community it serves, or the LA to actively send kids there. Our LA doesn't seem to manage demand that well so I wouldn't pin your hopes on that one.
Academies would have no qualms whatsoever about closing down schools - they are a business. As said upthread, small schools are not an attractive prospect to large chains, and if two academy schools are close together, I can see an academy just merging them. Our local CofE academy freely admits they want all their schools to be at least 400 pupils.
So the only real defense is to be an outstanding school -then you won't have a problem filling spaces.
There's an infant school I know that used to have PAN 40. The 120 children across the three school years R/1/2 were split into four mixed-age classes of 30 each.
Then numbers started to drop. Eventually they reduced PAN to 30 and closed one class. But they still weren't able to fill all 30 spaces. They became the school you knew you could always have, even if you didn't put it on your preferences list, as there were always spaces. They also became the school that would get 'centrally allocated' kids who didn't get a space in any of their preferred schools. They tended to have around 25/class, 75 kids overall, which just about worked.
Then last year (as in school entry year) seems to have been a low birth year locally. Lots of usually very oversubscribed schools went way down their oversubscription criteria list, some even remained with open spaces. The little school, though still with a PAN of 30, only filled 14 spaces.
I will be watching what happened this year, and how things continue!