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: email@example.com ). 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.