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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 22 September, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Proposal to create a 420 place primary school through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools by closing Murch Junior School and extending the age range of Dinas Powys Infants School

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Cabinet of the outcome of the consultation exercise undertaken to create a 420 place primary school by amalgamating Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools and to decide whether or not to publish a statutory public notice to this effect.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet note the findings of the consultation exercise on the proposal.

2.         To approve the publication of a consultation report on the proposal.

3.         To approve the publication of a statutory public notice to amalgamate Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure the views of prescribed consultees are taken into account in the decision making process.

2.         To ensure the Local Authority meets the legal requirements of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and School Organisation Code 2013.

3.         To progress the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.

Background

2.         The Council has a duty to review the number and type of schools in the area and to make the best use of resources to raise standards in schools

3.         The Council currently maintains 44 primary schools and four separate infant and junior schools. The separate infant and junior schools are: Dinas Powys Infants and Murch Junior, which are both community schools and St Helens Infant and St Helens Junior, which are Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided schools.

4.         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 community schools in the Vale.

5.         The establishment of a primary school offers a more efficient and sustainable model of delivery.

6.         The headteacher post at Murch Junior became vacant at the end of August 2014 following the resignation of the post holder. The resignation 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.

7.         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.

8.         A report on a proposal to create a 420 place primary school through the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools from January 2015 was presented to Cabinet on the 28 April 2014. Two options were considered for amalgamation: close both schools and open a new school or discontinue Murch Junior School and change the age range of Dinas Powys Infants School to admit children up to the age of 11.

9.         Cabinet approved a proposal to amalgamate both schools by discontinuing Murch Junior School and to extend the age range of Dinas Powys Infants School to admit children up to the age of 11, a consultation exercise on the proposal  would be carried out from the 2 June 2014 for a period of 8 weeks. The consultation exercise would follow the requirements of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and School Organisation Code 2013.

10.      A consultation report must be published within 13 weeks of the end of the period allowed for responses to the consultation exercise. The report must be published electronically and hard copies must be made available on request. All prescribed consultees must either receive a hard copy or be e-mailed a link to the relevant website.

11.      The publication of the consultation report must take place before any proposal is published.

Relevant Issues and Options

12.      The Welsh Government issued a School Organisation Code in 2013 that came into effect from the 1st October 2013. The Local Authority must act in accordance with the Code†as determined by the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013.

13.      Section 48 of the 2013 Act requires that before school organisation proposals are published they must first be subject to consultation. A consultation document must be published and provided to prescribed consultees and Welsh Ministers. The consultation document is attached at Appendix A.

14.      Appropriate consultation has taken place with prescribed consultees and a range of individuals the details of which are attached at Appendix B. Consultation has also been undertaken with children on the school council of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.

15.      Consultation was undertaken between 2 June 2014 and 28 July 2014. Consultees were either issued with a hard copy of the document or were e-mailed a copy and link to the Council's website. The document was published on the Council’s website on 2 June 2014. A joint governing body meeting of both schools was held on 9 June 2014. Meetings with staff of Murch Junior and Dinas Powys Infants Schools were held on 1st and 3rd July 2014 respectively. Drop in sessions for parents were held on the 18 June 2014 for Murch Junior parents and 30 June 2014 for Dinas Powys Infants parents. Both school councils were consulted on 10 July 2014.

16.      The Authority is required to publish a consultation report on the conclusion of the consultation exercise within 13 weeks of the end of the period allowed for responses to the consultation.

17.      The Authority received 11 individual responses to the consultation exercise by the closing date.  Of the 11 responses, 6 were positive, 2 were not in favour, 1 requested information and 2 responses were from Estyn and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) providing their opinion on the overall merits of the proposal.

18.      Key concerns of the proposal related to:

·           One headteacher managing and working over a split site and maintaining the present high standards;

·           No advantage in merger, schools already work together and the transition from infants to juniors runs smoothly;

·           Local housing growth according to the Local Development Plan, the number of places required in the school will increase;

·           Governing body, governance will automatically be given to infant school governors

19.      For those in favour of the proposal the key themes were that: 

·           Amalgamation would bring great benefits to the children.

·           Amalgamation would allow movement of staff across the two sites, bringing further opportunities for staff professional development.

·           Amalgamation could only work under the leadership of an experienced and enthusiastic headteacher such as the Head of the Infant School who would work diligently to bring together the best aspects of both Junior and Infant Schools for the benefit of pupils and staff.

·           Amalgamation is a good idea. The Head of the Infant School leading the new school will take the school from strength to strength.

20.      A summary of the key themes and issues raised by respondents and the Council's response are contained within Appendix C.

21.      To progress the proposal a statutory notice must be 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. It is proposed to issue a statutory notice for the amalgamation to run from the 30 September 2014 to 28 October 2014 if approval to proceed is granted.

22.      Following the publication of a statutory notice and objection period, a further report to cabinet will be issued on the outcome of the statutory notice period.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

23.      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.

24.      Capital funding to bring both schools onto 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 Governments 21st Century Schools Programme. It must be noted however that this funding is not anticipated to be available until 2018 at the earliest.

25.      The governing body are responsible for determining staffing levels at schools. It is anticipated that there will be no reduction in pupil numbers at the school and the number of teaching staff will also remain unchanged. The number of non-teaching staff will also be determined by the governing body and headteacher.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

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

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

27.      Powers for Councils to develop school organisation proposals are governed by the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the School Organisation Code 2013. The Council is to comply with the relevant provisions in connection with the proposal.

28.      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

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

30.       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

31.      The amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant 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.

32.      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

33.      This is a matter for Executive decision by the Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

34.      Ward members have been consulted on this proposal.

35.      Public consultation with all interested parties in accordance with legislation has been carried out regarding the amalgamation of Dinas Powys Infant and Murch Junior Schools.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Mike Matthews

Principal Officer, Strategy, Community Learning and Resources

01446 709727

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham - Head of Strategy, Community Learning and Resources

Operational Manager - Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill

Director of Learning and Skills

 

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