Welcome to our December 2014 Newsletter

Thinking outside the 'Royal' box !
Churton school pupils I have always believed in my children writing for a purpose; from experience this has usually encouraged them to be more conscientious and creative learners. When I arrived at Chirton Primary School in September 2013, a number of the older children had, understandably, lost some of their passion for this subject. Having gone through a difficult consultation for closure as a result of plummeting numbers, the remaining children found themselves in a tiny school that potentially didn't have a future.

Thankfully, due to the determination and commitment from the Governors, staff, parents and the community, Chirton was saved from closure and entered into a soft federation with All Cannings Primary School. This meant that although both schools would maintain their own identity, an Executive Headteacher would be at the helm and an Associate Headteacher would be appointed to oversee the day-to-day running of the school; this was where my journey began.

Read more

Erpington Village School
Erpingham village school has grown from 20 on roll to 48 under the excellent stewardship of Headteacher Simon East and his governors. Eight of those children come daily from the city of Norwich by parental choice. The school works closely with other local education initiatives such as Dandelion Education—a nursery approach to Forest School and Philosophy for Children, as well as Forest Friends, which works with children aged 2 to 5. It has a very good recent inspection record and works closely with a nearby school which also still has its own Headteacher- young and pleased to learn from Simon. We have written before about the potential for work in small schools to build enduring leadership skills.

Sadly Norfolk's officers see 105 as minimum roll for all schools and propose to establish that within three years. It is yet to be approved by the Committee and is so draconian and ill-thought that NASS hopes local common-sense will locally apply. Even schools of 105 are regarded as incapable of having their own identity and leadership and officers want executive Headship for groups of schools total roll 400-600. We remain very willing to support moves by schools to resist such blind big-school mentality utterly unsupported by anything remotely like hard evidence of virtue. It is mere opinion by people who clearly know little about life and work in small schools and are motivated purely by the usual flawed economics of reducing numbers of Headteachers and a good collection of sites like Erpingham.
Chicago study shows results better with smaller schools
One of the most quoted myths about small schools relates to their cost and to the ability to achieve high results. NASS has been able to access a number of studies which disprove these myths. One from Chicago which researched the efficiency of large scale education showed very clearly that not only were results consistently better with smaller numbers but actual diseconomies of scale occured as the numbers increased. Other studies highlighted other aspects of the Chicago experience. An official from West Sussex told a conference of all its two-and three-teacher school Heads that if it closed them all, the savings gained would add only 2p to 3p per pupil per year to the remaining primary schools. A ten-year French study, where a programme of closures saw 50 schools reduced to 28, revealed that the costs of transport alone almost outweighed the costs of keeping all 50 open. There was also no significant improvement in the results achieved by the remaining schools. It is evidence like this that council officers contemplating closure should be forced to consider alongside the social and community impact which their actions would bring.
Small schools and hot meals
Hot meal eaten by school child We decided to do a small survey across the country asking head teachers how they have been tackling serving hot meals. Our small sample's responses ranged from:

"No problems here as we already had a kitchen and a cook- with small numbers – so easy to accommodate". St Levan in Cornwall


"Both schools were packed lunch schools before the introduction of this initiative so we have had to set everything up from scratch and it's been a steep learning curve for staff from both schools" Captain Shaw's and Thwaites in Cumbria

The varied replies can be seen in Read More but this sentence sums them up:

"However, as it is always the way in small schools- everyone has stepped up and gone the extra mile to make sure we fulfil our obligation".

Read more
DfE releases a list of all schools designated 'rural'
On 1st. October the DfE released a list of all schools designated 'rural'. NASS had sought clarification on the way councils were interpreting "sparsity". This was in response to the action of some Scottish Councils who had attempted to by-pass the new 2010 Bill insisting on fair closure procedure for rural schools. They had attempted to identify slates of schools no longer deemed rural and so not under the Bill's guidance. NASS welcomes the clear statement and clarification by the DfE which should provide guidance to all councils in the future.

DfE confirms Shropshire Council acted illegally by saying they didn't have to follow statutory guidance on closure
The DfE has confirmed for us in writing that when Shropshire Council openly claimed statutory guidance on closure procedure was only guidance- "We don't have to follow it!"- they were acting illegally. The Dfe confirmed that some matters were literally a statutory duty- like village impact studies- but also:

"The school organisation guidance that supports the processes to make significant changes to schools, including closure, is set out in legislation. Local authorities must follow this process when considering closure. This is because statutory guidance has legal bearing and is the interpretation of how the law applies."

Both these clarifying developments have followed firm NASS representations to Ministers and DfE officials.

Hope you have an enjoyable end to this term… and that all the various Christmas productions and celebrations go well

If you have any contributions for our newsletter please email us or write to us at:
National Association for Small Schools
'Quarrenden' - Upper Red Cross Road,
Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG8 9BD
Tel: 0845 2235029

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