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					                                 MEDWAY COUNCIL

                                        CABINET

                                     28 JUNE 2005

           REVIEW OF PRIMARY SCHOOL PLACES –
       RICHMOND INFANT AND ARDEN JUNIOR SCHOOLS

Portfolio Holder:      Councillor Les Wicks, Education

Report from:           Rose Collinson, Director of Education and Leisure

Author:                John Farry, Planning and Review Manager

 1.       Summary

 1.1      To report the outcomes of public consultation and recommend Members
          approve the option to open a new two form entry all through primary school
          from 1 September 2006.

 2.       Decision Issues

 2.1      This issue is consistent with the School Organisation Plan 2003/2004 -
          2007/2008 which flows from the Education Development Plan (policy
          framework) and therefore, this is a matter for Cabinet.

 3.       Background

 3.1      The headteacher of Richmond Infant school will be retiring from August 2005,
          and governors and headteachers of both schools have been asked to consider
          the case for amalgamation. As a result both governing bodies have agreed to
          the proposal in principle and asked the council to proceed to consultation.

          Cabinet considered these proposals on 15 March 2005 and decided to go out
          to public consultation.

 4.       Consultation

 4.1      Arrangements: The consultation was carried out according to the Procedures
          for School Organisation Reviews approved by Cabinet on 3 June 2003.

 4.2      A notice was placed in the local newspaper announcing the consultation and
          giving an open invitation to attend the consultation meetings that were held on
          16 May, at the Infant school, and 18 May, at the Junior school.
4.3   The consultation document was circulated widely to ensure that everyone had
      an opportunity to express their views. Information was also published on the
      council’s website.

4.4   A summary of the written responses and the notes of the public meetings are
      included as background papers and are available from the Cabinet Office (Tel:
      01634 332008 or E-mail: cabinetoffice@medway.gov.uk ).

4.5   The consultation aimed to find out the views of stakeholders on three options
      and their reasons for supporting or rejecting them. A summary of responses is
      included given below:

       Representing     Option 1      Option 2     Option 3          No           Total
                          Do          Reduce         New         preference
                        nothing         both     amalgamated
                                      schools’      school
                                     admission
                                      number
      Parents               8            22            64             2          96 (66%)
      Staff                 3             8            14             1          26 (18%)
      Governors             1             0             2             0           3 (2%)
      Other                 5             5             8             2          20 (14%)
      Total             17 (12%)     35 (24%)       88 (61%)       5 (3%)          145



4.6      Option 1: Do nothing.

         Seventeen respondents (12%) supported this option, mainly on the basis
         nothing needed to be done.

         This is clearly not the case. Both schools are experiencing falling rolls and
         this is already having budgetary and staffing implications. If nothing is done
         the schools’ combined proportion of surplus places is forecast to rise to
         27%, above the level at which the council is required to consider action.
         Both schools are operating in cramped and restricted buildings on a site
         that is significantly less than modern DfES space standards. The
         amalgamation proposal addresses both these sets of problems.

4.7      At the consultation meeting there was little support for this option.

4.8      Option 2: Retain two separate schools and reduce Richmond Infant and
         Arden Junior schools’ admission number from 90 to 60 from September
         2006.

         Thirty-five respondents (25%) preferred this option.

         Other respondents gave their reasons as being about the proposed major
         building works.
4.9    The main reasons given in writing and at the consultation meeting were:

          Smaller schools have more benefits for younger children than larger
           ones: “An amalgamated school would be too large and lose some of the
           benefits of a smaller school especially at Infant level and lose the
           distinct ethos of the existing schools”.
          This option would allow the schools to stay separated and avoid wasting
           large sums of capital on expensive rebuilding: “...it is a waste of
           resources and the buildings already serve their purpose”.
          The problem of falling rolls could be addressed by reducing the
           admission numbers; there is no need to amalgamate.
          Amalgamating the schools, which are already high performing, would
           require a major building project that create health and safety, security
           and teaching and learning difficulties for children and staff currently at
           the schools.
          An extended school would undermine the education of the children by
           bringing the community into the school and therefore we don’t need the
           additional space that amalgamation would create.
          Teachers and other staff would have to reapply for positions in the new
           school and this would be unsettling and some might move to other
           schools.

4.10   Option 3: Amalgamate Richmond Infant and Arden Junior schools to form
       a new two form entry (admission number 60) primary school from
       September 2006.

       Eighty-eight (61%) of written responses supported amalgamation.
       The arguments given in writing and at the meetings include:
           Amalgamation benefits ethnic minority pupils: “One amalgamated
              school would provide more continuity which would particularly benefit
              minority ethnic pupils”.
           The period of unsettlement caused by amalgamation is more than
              out weighed by its benefits: “The amalgamation proposal is well
              thought through and sensitive to both sites; whilst it would create a
              period of disruption the long term benefits are great”.
           Amalgamation presents a unique opportunity to create teaching
              spaces that were designed for the 21st century: “If a new
              amalgamated school is not built a great opportunity would be
              wasted, they are old buildings not ideally laid out for teaching; adults
              and children crossing their halls to get to classrooms frequently
              disturb lessons in both schools - not good enough for the 21st
              century”.
           Amalgamation would present the opportunity to create an extended
              school that was accessible to the local community: “The opportunity
              must be taken to used the investment available to build an up to date
              school; the opportunity to build a school with better access and much
              more open space impressed me”.
            Amalgamation brings children together across keystage one and
             two: “It would be good for children of different ages to interact with
             each other”.
            Amalgamation overcomes the potential loss of learning and anxieties
             caused by changing school at age seven: “The majority of
             Richmond children already go to Arden and amalgamation would
             lessen the anxieties of changing schools at such a young age”.
            One school for 5-11 year olds is preferred by parents to two separate
             ones: “Amalgamation should have happened years ago; it will free
             up parents trying to look after their children when there are different
             staff training days, parents evenings and sports days and cut down
             on the amount of information sent home to parents”.
            One school as opposed to two on a cramped and constrained site
             within one of the most deprived areas of Medway, will give an
             invaluable opportunity to rationalisation space and attract major
             investment: “It would be a good idea to get a new uptodate school
             for an area that needs help and where there has been
             underinvestment in the past”. “I attended both schools and so did my
             father, it is about time investment was put into this area”.
            Amalgamation creates stronger, more viable schools: “Both schools
             are doing a great job but suffering from falling rolls; by amalgamating
             their future could be safeguarded”.

5.    Advice and analysis

5.1   A comparatively high level of responses was received (145) and the
      consultations process as a whole was challenging yet highly constructive.

5.2   Reducing admissions to both schools by a form of entry would mean that
      staff would not have to apply for positions in a new school. The likelihood
      of job loses however would still exist because pupil numbers are falling.
      This option would also:
            Forgo the potential to rationalise space for the site as a whole and
               the buildings
            Lead to a much less ambitious design and investment to create a
               school for the 21st century in North Gillingham
            Deny pupils, parents and staff the educational, organisational and
               developmental benefits of all-through education for 5-11 year olds
            Seriously undermine the opportunity to create a
               community/extended school which could offer so much to the
               people of this community.

5.3   There is strong support for amalgamation overall (61%), particularly from
      parents and governors, and stronger reasons in support (see 5.7).

5.4   A number of stakeholders were highly apprehensive about completely
      building a new school and this was especially evident at both consultation
      meetings.
5.5   A decision about the best option for building a new school on the existing
      site is largely a technical one. The council has therefore commissioned a
      full feasibility study to identify options for creating a new amalgamated
      school and a possible design option was presented to both formal
      consultation meetings to demonstrate that it would be possible to create a
      new school on the existing site. The council has also committed sufficient
      funding in this year’s capital programme to develop to design stage the
      project to rebuild the schools.

5.6   Subject to Cabinet’s decision on amalgamation, the feasibility study will
      examine buildings options for the new school, and discussions will be made
      following full discussion and consultation with the existing schools’
      communities. Extended school facilities would be included in all options.

6     Next steps

6.1   If Cabinet agree the recommendation, statutory notices would be published
      for a six-week period. If no objection were received the proposal would
      automatically be determined. If an objection were received the proposal
      would have to be submitted to the School Organisation Committee (SOC)
      to decide. If the SOC did not agree to the proposal it would be referred to a
      Schools Adjudicator to make a final decision.

6.2   Timescale:

6.3   The scale of building works, involving a full rebuild or major adaptations,
      would mean that the accommodation is expected to be completed by
      September 2007.

      Statutory notice period                                      2 Sept to 14 Oct
      Report outcome of Statutory notice period to                            8 Nov
      School Organisation Committee (if there is an
      objection)
      Advertise for headteacher appointment                                     Nov
      New headteacher takes up post
      Opening new primary school                                          Sept 2006
      Opening new school building                                         Sept 2007
7.    Financial and Legal Implications

7.1   A new all through primary school will be more space efficient and cost-
      effective to run than two separate schools. The current policy and practice
      is for the savings arising in this way from reorganisations to be retained
      within the overall budget available to schools. An alternative to reinvesting
      this sum would be for this saving to be taken by reducing the overall
      delegated schools budget.

7.2   The costs of demolishing the existing schools and building a new two and a
      -half form entry school (490 places) primary school are estimated to be in
      the region of £4m. A full feasibility study has been commissioned since, the
      cost of which is a commitment within the capital programme 2005/06.

7.3   Previous re-organisations have resulted in significant redundancy costs,
      which are met from the non-delegated budget. However, it is not possible
      to quantify these at this stage.

7.4   To create a new primary school statutory proposals must be published
      proposing to close the existing schools and open the new one. Any
      decision by Cabinet does not fetter the Council’s discretion as planning
      authority.

7.5   The cost of advertising for a new headteacher to be in place for the start of
      the summer term will be incurred in 2006-2007 at an estimated cost of
      £3,000. This cost will be met from the school reorganisation fund. The cost
      of the headteacher in the summer term 2006, a term before the school
      opens and receives a delegated budget is estimated to cost £23,400 and
      will be a charge on the school reorganisation fund in 2005-2006, for which
      provision will be made.

7.6   It is current practice to allow for the school reorganisation fund to meet the
      following costs, which typically arise:
            Supply cover for newly appointed staff to be released - £3,000.
            Training for staff and governors
            New school signs £2,000
            The removal costs for transferring furniture and equipment £2,000
            IT equipment and connections £3,000
            Provision for curriculum materials £1,000
            Provision for designing new letterheads £2,000

7.7   There would need to be a revaluation of the site for rating purposes. Any
      costs arising from an increase in the rates liability would need to be met
      from the schools delegated budget and adequate provision will need to be
      made for the budget allocated to the school from September 2005.
7.8   The revenue costs, estimated at £40,000 arising from the reorganisation
      will be met from the school reorganisation fund with the majority of
      costs being incurred in 2006-2007. Any lump sum redundancy payments
      would also be met from this fund, with the ongoing annual pension costs or
      capitalised pension costs, where appropriate, being met from the
      redundancy and pensions budget within the non-delegated budget.

8.    Recommendations

8.1   That Cabinet approve the option of creating a new community 2 form-entry
      all through primary school and nursery unit on the existing school sites, and
      authorise statutory notices be published.

9.    Suggested Reasons for Decision

9.1   The amalgamation option was strongly supported overall (61%), particularly
      by the parents and governors of both schools. Amalgamation would
      provide educational, organisational and developmental benefits to the
      pupils, parents and staff of the schools. Amalgamation would also enable
      the constraints and restrictions of the site and buildings to be overcome and
      a new extended school for the 21st century to be built for the community of
      this more deprived area of Medway.

      Lead officer contacts:
      John Farry, Planning and Review Manager:
      01634 331031: john.farry@medway.gov.uk

      Background papers:
         Approved School Organisation Plan (SOP) 2003/04-2007/08
         Cabinet Report, 15 March 2005, Review of Primary School Place:
          North Gillingham
         Summary of responses from the consultation document
         Note of Richmond Infant public meeting.
         Note of Arden Junior public meeting.

				
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