Agenda and minutes

Small Schools Task and Finish Group
Wednesday, 4th December, 2019 2.00 pm

Venue: County Hall North, Horsham

Contact: Rachel Allan on 033 022 28966  Email:  rachel.allan@westsussex.gov.uk

Webcast: View the webcast

Items
No. Item

1.

Declarations of Interest

Members and officers must declare any pecuniary or personal interest in any business on the agenda. They should also make declarations at any stage such an interest becomes apparent during the meeting. Consideration should be given to leaving the meeting if the nature of the interest warrants it. (If in doubt please contact Democratic Services before the meeting).

Additional documents:

Minutes:

1.1     The following personal interests were declared: -

 

·         Mr Woodman as: -

Ø  Chair of the West Sussex Secondary Heads

Ø  Vice Chair of the West Sussex Schools’ Forum

 

·         Mr Ryder as: -

Ø  Chair of governors at Rogate Church of England Primary School

Ø  Chair of governors at Rake Church of England Primary School

Ø  Former governor at Stedham Primary School

Ø  Member of Trotton Parish Council

Ø  Chair of a Community Land Trust covering Stedham, Trotton and Rogate

Ø  Member of the West Sussex Schools’ Forum

2.

Notes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 123 KB

Members of the Task & Finish Group are asked to agree the notes of the previous meeting held on 24 October.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

2.1     Resolved – that the minutes of the meeting held on 24 October be agreed.

3.

Consultation Process pdf icon PDF 212 KB

Members of the Task & Finish Group will receive a presentation on the consultation process results.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

3.1     The Group received a presentation by James Richardson, Programme Manager (copy appended to the signed minutes) showing the results of the consultation. He also reported that the Council had received petitions regarding Clapham & Patching Church of England Primary School and Rumboldswhyke Church of England Infant School. Consultation headlines included: -

 

·         1069 responses

·         Clapham and Patching 45% for no change, 21% for academisation

·         Compton and Up Marden 87% for no change

·         Rumboldswhyke 90% for academisation

·         Stedham 77% for no change

·         Warninglid 42% for relocation, 23% for no change, 22% for closure

 

3.2     Summary of responses to Members questions and comments: -

 

·         ‘Other’ respondents were people from the wider community, people from outside the area or those who chose not to be identified

·         Allowance was made for multiple responses from families sharing an email address

·         All information from the consultation and petitions would be available to the Cabinet Member for Education & Skills

 

3.3     Resolved – that the Task & Finish Group notes the presentation.

4.

Stakeholder Representations pdf icon PDF 260 KB

An opportunity for members of the Task & Finish Group to hear representations from identified witnesses who have been invited to speak.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

4.1 The Task & Finish group considered the followinf stakeholder representations: -

 

4.2     Peter Woodman, Headteacher, The Weald School and Sixth Form College, Billingshurst: -

 

·         The secondary heads appreciated the strategic, systematic approach even if it resulted in tough decisions

·         A lot of small schools were under great pressure and were being subsidised by others

·         One of the smallest schools in the Weald catchment area had students who were largely out of its own catchment area. If it relied on catchment students alone, it would have very few students.

 

4.3     Kevin Jenkins, Chair of Interim Executive Board (IEB), Rumboldswhyke Church of England Infant School, Chichester: -

 

·         The IEB position was to remain neutral to help the school deliver good education and keep stakeholders well informed

·         The IEB asks that Rumboldswhyke be treated differently to other schools due to its OFSTED report and wants a clear decision so that the school can plan for the future

 

4.4     Trevor Cristin, Director of Education, Diocese of Chichester: -

 

·         The process required good communication and an active dialog so that even if parties disagree a constructive way forward could be reached – the diocese and local authority were developing such a dialog

·         Initially, communications were not clear about how the process would be carried out and it was challenging for both schools and the Board of Education

·         Information from the local authority was controversial with some facts challenged and an opportunity for better cooperation was missed

·         The Board of Education had a statutory duty to respond to the local authority’s proposals and wanted to be actively involved going forward, in a challenging time for some schools

·         Some schools were reluctant to address the challenge in this process, but some school leaders had shown creative determination

 

4.5     Neil Ryder, West Sussex Governors Association (WSGA): -

 

·         The WSGA Working Group had attended all but one meeting of the schools affected as well as meeting governors and some of the local councillors

·         Governors felt they were not being taken seriously enough

·         The future of small schools should be judged over the long-term taking a much more strategic view

·         Proposals to double the size of Easebourne school had been rebuffed due to lack of information and prior consultation with schools and the increase did not happen

·         In 2016 Rogate school was put into special measures – the option of becoming an academy was raised but was not possible, the school therefore formed a partnership with Rake school with the intention of forming a federation. This had persuaded the DfE regional school commissioner to rescind the academy order – so other options can be opened up despite inadequate OFSTED judgements

·         Decisions on schools shouldn’t be rushed

·         Not enough progress has been made on the School’s Strategy due to lack of support for governors

·         Many parents were upset at the thought that their children’s schools might close because they had deliberately selected small schools

·         Many children in small schools were vulnerable, and would probably need education, health & care plans if they  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Admissions

Members of the Task & Finish Group will receive a verbal update on the admissions queries relating to these schools.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

5.1     Ellie Evans, Head of Pupil Entitlement told the Group: -

 

·         The schools admission round was open till mid January

·         Parents could state preferences for three schools (one of which should be their local school)

·         No accurate information was available as to the effect of the consultation as there were still 3,000 outstanding applications

 

5.2     Summary of responses to Members questions and comments: -

 

·         Admissions to the five schools involved in the consultation had been volatile in recent years – ACTION: Ellie Evans to provide information on school admissions for the five affected schools this year compared to the past two or three years

·         The ‘Inadequate’ OFSTED rating had influenced admissions to Rumboldswhyke – a monitoring visit had taken place resulting in a letter from OFSTED saying that an appropriate action plan and support had been put in place to deal with safeguarding issues

 

6.

Recommendations

Members of the Task & Finish Group to agree comments and/or recommendations to be forwarded to the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills to be included as part of the Report to the Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee on 9 January 2020.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

6.1     Resolved – the Task & Finish Group recommends that: -

 

     i.        There is improved communication between the County Council and named schools in future consultations, including early conversations

    ii.        Training on school viability should be provided to school governors, as well as risk management, in order to ensure that governors have a good level of support

   iii.        Any potential future consultations concerning schools include a clear context set as part of the consultation papers

  iv.        The quality of data provided as part of any consultation process is thoroughly checked with any schools concerned to ensure accuracy, and that any data produced is received and understood by the schools

    v.        The timeline for any future consultations is carefully considered alongside school holidays and other timelines, such as admissions, that affect schools

  vi.        Future consultations are considered in a more strategic and geographical area context

 vii.        That County Councillors are encouraged to have regular contact with the schools within their divisions