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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 28 April 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Proposal to amalgamate Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior schools

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To seek Cabinet approval to consult stakeholders on a proposal to create a new 420 place primary school through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior schools.

Recommendations

1.      Cabinet authorises consultation from 2 June 2014 for a period of 8 weeks on a proposal to create a new 420 place primary school through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior schools by discontinuing Murch Junior School and changing the age range of Dinas Powys infant school to admit children up to the age of 11.

2.      Cabinet refers this report to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To assess the level of support for the proposal to amalgamate Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior school into a single Primary school on the existing two sites.

2.         The Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee is aware of progress with school reorganisation.

Background

2.         The council maintains 44 primary schools and four separate infant and junior schools operating in the Vale of Glamorgan. The separate infant and junior schools are; Dinas Powys Infants and Murch Junior, which are both community schools and St Helens Infants and St Helens Junior, which are Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided schools

3.         Following a programme of amalgamating infant and junior schools, the most recent of which are Cadoxton Primary School in 2002 and Romilly Primary School in 2008, the infant and junior schools in Dinas Powys are the last remaining single phase Maintained Community schools in the Vale.

4.         Dinas Powys Infants and Murch Junior are both located in the village of Dinas Powys and are approximately 300m apart 'as the crow flies' and 850m by road. Both schools are two form entry with an admission number of 60 in each year group. Dinas Infants has a school capacity of 180 and Murch Junior 240. Both schools draw pupils from the same catchment area.

5.         Children attend Dinas Powys Infants from nursery to year 2 (Foundation Phase) and then automatically transfer to Murch Junior for Key Stage 2.

6.         The number on roll (excluding nursery pupils) in January 2014 at Dinas Powys Infant school was 174, whilst 202 attended Murch Junior School. Pupil projections anticipate the number on roll to increase to 178 at Dinas Powys Infants and 231 at Murch Junior by January 2019.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         The latest Estyn inspection of Dinas Powys Infants in March 2013 judged the school's current performance to be excellent and prospects for improvement to be good. The inspection confirmed that leadership was good and that "the head teacher provides very strong and well informed leadership". It is anticipated that Murch Junior School will be inspected under Estyn's Common   Inspection Framework in the autumn of 2014. The school was last inspected in November 2008 under Estyn's previous School Inspection Framework.

8.         The Headteacher post at Murch Junior will become vacant at the end of August 2014 following the resignation of the current post holder. This resignation has presented an opportunity to review the current single phase structure of the schools with a view to amalgamating the schools on their current sites under a single governing body and headteacher.

9.         There are a number of benefits associated with moving from separate phases (separate infant and junior schools) to a single phase primary school. One of the main reasons for the move to primary schools over the past 30 years has been the smoother transition for pupils moving from the infant to junior phase.

10.      A primary school model enables the establishment of one set of policies, shared staff and a shared ethos which the infant pupils will be familiar with on their transition to key stage 2. It provides staff with continuing professional development opportunities by enabling them to gain experience in Foundation Phase and key stage 2 thereby improving their career options. The primary school model makes it easier for parents to engage with the school particularly where they have children in both key stages as they would only need to familiarise themselves with one set of policies and one set of communications.

11.      The Vale, in common with other Local Authorities, experiences a high turn-over of head teachers. Due to the high number of headteacher vacancies at both local and national levels and a shortage of suitably qualified and experienced candidates it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract a strong field of candidates for vacant headteacher positions. Amalgamation of the two schools would have a number of benefits not least the attraction of there being an experienced and high achieving headteacher at the infant school who could fulfil the role of headteacher of the new amalgamated school.

12.      There are two options for amalgamating the schools. One option is to close both schools and open a new school which is the approach taken in relation to the proposal to amalgamate Llanilltud Fawr and Eagleswell Primary schools in Llantwit Major. A governing body for the new school would be established which would decide the staffing structure for the new school including appointment to the post of Headteacher.

13.       An alternative option would be to discontinue one of the schools and change the age range of the other. For example, Murch Junior School could be discontinued and the age range of Dinas Powys Infant School changed. The substantive headteacher of Dinas Powys Infant School would become the Headteacher of the new amalgamated school and the governing body of the infant school would become the governing body of the new school and would be expanded from its current number of 14 up to a maximum of 18. This approach was adopted for the amalgamation of Romilly Infant and Junior Schools in 2008.

14.      Following careful consideration of the two options it is proposed to follow the alternative option described in paragraph 13 which will provide more continuity of leadership. Care will be given in the consultation and amalgamation process to ensuring the ethos and traditions of Murch Junior School are fully recognised within new school.

15.      In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council will need to comply with the statutory process detailed in the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and outlined below.

16.      A consultation document must be provided to all interested parties allowing a minimum of six weeks to respond, the consultation period must include a minimum of 20 school days. Meetings will be held during the consultation period to provide additional information as requested and will include a joint meeting of the two governing bodies.

17.      Within three months of the closing date for the consultation period a consultation report will be published including a summary of comments received and the Council's response to these comments.

18.      The Council must then decide whether or not to proceed with the proposal within six months of the end of the consultation period.

19.      If following the consultation process the Council decides that the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior schools is to be progressed a statutory notice is published providing 28 days for objections. The notice must be published on a school day and with 15 school days included within the notice period.

20.      If objections are received, an objection report must be published with a summary of the objections and the Council's response within 28 days of the end of the objection period. Under the legislation as the proposal does not relate to 6th form education the Local Authority can determine the proposal if objections are received.

21.      Appendix A sets out the anticipated timescale for this process if approved by Cabinet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

22.      Amalgamating the two schools into a primary school on two sites could achieve revenue savings in the region of £100,000 per annum (dependent upon the final staffing structure determined by the Governing Body) due to efficiencies resulting from economies of scale. Net savings will be reinvested in Education ensuring that available resources are maximised to secure improved outcomes for all children and young people in the Vale of Glamorgan.

23.      Capital funding to bring both schools on to a single site is not currently identified and will be considered, along with other priorities, within the Council's bid for Band B funding under the Welsh Government's 21st Century Schools Programme. It must be noted however that this funding is not anticipated to be available until 2018 at the earliest.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

24.      Establishment of a single phase primary school offers a more efficient and sustainable model of delivery.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

25.      Powers for Councils to develop school organisation proposals derive from the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 which was enacted on 1 October 2013.

26.      If approved, the statutory notice to amalgamate Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior schools will comply with the requirements of The Schools Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the School Organisation Code, Statutory Code Document no. 006/2013.

Crime and Disorder Implications

27.      There are no direct crime and disorder implications as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

28.      A key driver to all school reorganisation proposals is to improve school effectiveness including driving up standards of teaching and attainment in all schools. Thereby improving educational outcomes for children and young people in all phases and helping to narrow the inequalities in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged groups and individuals.

Corporate/Service Objectives

29.      The amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infants and Murch Junior schools progresses LS2 to 'Develop, consult on and implement a School Reorganisation Programme to ensure the right schools are provided in the right places.' included within the Corporate Plan 2013-17.

30.      The proposal detailed in this report contributes towards service objective 2 of the Learning and Skills Directorate Service Plan 2014/18: 'To meet the needs of all learners by providing a range of suitable and accessible learning opportunities and facilities.'

Policy Framework and Budget

31.      This report is a matter for Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

32.      The joint consultation response we received from Councillors Keith Hatton, Val Hartrey and Chris Franks were;

We welcome this opportunity to consult with stakeholders on the proposal to create a new 420 place Primary School through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.  We also recognise that the alternative option to change the age range, of for example the Dinas Powys Infant School rather than close both schools and open a new School, would be an attractive option.  The Infants School recently underwent an inspection by the Estyn Inspectorate and was judged to be a School of excellence, with the head teacher being noted as providing very strong and well informed leadership.  As a part of the consultation we would welcome clarity by the authority regarding future investment in the school buildings.

 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

33.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer:

Paula Ham

Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources

 

Officers Consulted

Lynette Jones: Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Mark Haynes: School Organisation and Buildings Manager

Mike Matthews: Principal School Planning Officer

Operational Manager - Legal

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Chief Learning and Skills Officer

 

 

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