Consultation on Oak Farm Community School

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Consultation on Oak Farm Community School Powered By Docstoc
					                                                               AGENDA ITEM NO. 2

CABINET                                                         CHIEF EXECUTIVE'S
23 SEPTEMBER 2008                                                 REPORT CEX0806


          CONSULTATION ON OAK FARM COMMUNITY SCHOOL


1     INTRODUCTION

1.1   During the summer, the County Council launched a consultation about the
      future of Oak Farm School, based on a proposal to close the school in 2010.
      A copy of the consultation paper is attached.

1.2   This paper recommends a response to the County's consultation. The
      closing date for comments is 30 September.


2     THE BASIS OF THE COUNTY'S PROPOSAL

2.1   The reasoning behind the proposal to close the school is set out in the
      consultation paper. On 1 September, Chris Holt, the County's Head of
      School Organisation, attended a seminar for Rushmoor's councillors to
      explain why the proposal had been made and answer questions.

2.2   The County's proposal is driven by the rapid decline in the number of pupils
      attending Oak Farm and the impact that this has on the economic and
      educational viability of the school.         While several of Hampshire's
      secondary schools are experiencing a fall in numbers, the position at Oak
      Farm is especially pronounced.       In 2004/5, the school had just over 370
      children, with 60 in year seven (the entry group). By 2007/8, the total had
      fallen to just 300, with only 30 in year seven. We understand that, at the
      start of the new term, this had dropped to around 250, again with just 30 in
      year seven. These figures compare with the school's current capacity of
      700.

2.3   The reason for the rapid reduction is essentially population change, with
      fewer local youngsters of secondary school age, and, significantly at Oak
      Farm, parental choice.      The latest estimate suggests that, of the 830
      children in the school's catchment area, only 170 are attending Oak Farm,
      while 660, or 80%, go to other schools.

2.4   In the consultation paper, Hampshire County Council sets out its view that
      the reduced roll has a potential severe adverse impact on Oak Farm. The
      school's funding is directly related to the number attending and reduced
      funding makes it more difficult to appoint staff and deliver the full range of
      the curriculum, as well as the additional activities that are vital to providing a
      rounded education. The number of pupils at Oak Farm has already fallen
      to a level where valuable funding is having to be spent on unnecessary
      premises costs, reducing still further the resources available to support
      children's learning.

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2.5   The age structure of the local area, based on children who have already
      been born, shows that there will be no increase in the secondary age group
      in Oak Farm's catchment area within the foreseeable future. In addition,
      experience shows that patterns of parental choice do not change rapidly.
      Therefore, it is inevitable that, if the school were to remain open, the number
      of pupils will continue to fall.

2.6   The consultation also addresses practical issues that would face pupils and
      parents, if the school were to close, with a focus on the arrangements for
      existing pupils to transfer to schools nearby, principally Cove, Fernhill or
      Wavell.

2.7   As part of the consultation, there have been public meetings for parents and
      others to hear about the proposal, together with drop-in sessions for parents
      and existing pupils. The County has also engaged with all the staff.


3     OAK FARM IN THE COMMUNITY

3.1   The school has played a key role in providing secondary education for
      children in the northern part of Farnborough, especially those in the
      Mayfield/Prospect area.

3.2   Oak Farm is also one of just six centres in the county for secondary age
      pupils with special learning difficulties (dyslexia). Pupils placed at Oak
      Farm for this support attend most of the normal mainstream classes but
      have access to intensive literacy programmes, homework classes and other
      support for their individual needs. The programme at Oak Farm has been
      successful and the County recognises that it will need to be provided
      elsewhere if the school does close.

3.3   In 2005, Oak Farm was one of the early pilot extended schools and is now
      part of the Rushmoor Extended Schools Partnership. As a result, it offers a
      wide and growing programme of learning opportunities for its community,
      some in partnership with other local schools, colleges and agencies. The
      way these opportunities are provided in the future needs to be part of
      arrangements if Oak Farm closes.

3.4   The Government has proposals to improve secondary, further and higher
      education, including 17 new specialised diplomas. These diplomas will
      provide important opportunities for those youngsters who want to develop
      and demonstrate practical and vocational skills rather than pursue an
      academic route.

3.5   The Rushmoor and Hart 14-19 Consortium, which includes all the schools,
      special schools and colleges in the area, is developing plans to ensure
      youngsters in the area have the opportunity to take the diplomas. Last
      year, the Consortium was awarded funds to develop a joint IT infrastructure
      in its schools and colleges. The Consortium has identified Oak Farm as a
      centre for construction and built environment diplomas from next year and,


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      tentatively, engineering and media in 2010.          Oak Farm would be well
      placed to be the centre for these.

3.6   Cabinet will be aware of Oak Farm's role as a community campus, as a
      result of the successful partnership between the Borough and County
      councils. Facilities and activities at the campus include:

      •     sports pitches (including all weather pitch)
      •     sports hall
      •     meeting rooms
      •     vocational courses
      •     classes including arts and crafts, languages, computing, music and
            drama, cooking and health therapy
      •     parenting courses
      •     family learning
      •     courses and activities for children
      •     U3A
      •     pre-school groups
      •     activities for senior citizens
      •     Rushmoor Healthy Living programmes
      •     the campus also manages the Prospect Centre for the Council


4     PRINCIPAL ISSUES

4.1   Fundamentally, the debate has to be focussed on the children that the
      school serves and ensuring the County's decision, and package of
      measures accompanying it, provides the best arrangements in the interests
      of the children and their families in the catchment area.

4.2   The County Council has formed a clear view on the implications of the
      falling school roll. It is hard to argue that an overall roll of 200/250, with an
      intake as low as 25/30, is not sustainable in economic or, more importantly,
      educational terms. This means that the school's ability to deliver the core
      curriculum plus the additional activities that our youngsters need,
      particularly in one of the least prosperous parts of the borough, is in doubt.

4.3   If the school is to close, there needs to be the right provision for those pupils
      at Oak Farm who would need to transfer, together with those who would
      start at another school.       The County is confident that this can be done,
      even though Cove, Fernhill and Wavell are already operating close to
      capacity.

4.4   The County also recognises the need to find a convenient and appropriate
      base for the special provision for children with learning disabilities, referred
      to in 3.2. It is vital that the local area does not lose this service, which
      contributes to improving educational attainment.




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4.5   The new diplomas for 14-19 year olds (3.4 and 3.5) provide an important
      opportunity for children who want to follow a practical or vocational, rather
      than academic route.      In an area where we are striving too improve
      educational attainment and help young people prepare and equip
      themselves for employment, we need a campus base for teaching and
      practical work. Oak Farm is ideally placed to offer this.

4.6   The current site provides an ideal opportunity to act as a campus serving
      existing schools, together with the Sixth Form College and College of
      Technology. The campus could also accommodate more of the activities
      provided through the Rushmoor Extended Schools Partnership (3.3).

4.7   Finally, alongside education, the Oak Farm Campus has a major community
      role, offering an expanding range of community and social activities (3.6).
      Many of the activities provide vital support to local families and the majority
      attending come from Mayfield or other parts of northern Farnborough. The
      County recognises the huge significance of these community activities and
      the need to ensure that they continue and flourish to meet the needs of local
      people.


5     CONCLUSIONS

5.1   Oak Farm School has a long and proud history and has played an active
      and key role within the community. Many children have benefited from their
      time at the school, supported by a dedicated teaching team.

5.2   Regrettably, however, in view of the currently falling roll at the school, it has
      to be recognised that no action is simply not an option - a point highlighted
      by members at their seminar. The County clearly feels that the school is no
      longer viable and this will fundamentally impact on the education and life
      opportunities of the pupils.    Plans for the future need to focus on the
      children and the local community, rather than buildings or institutions.

5.3   What is clear is that the site has a fundamental role to play in
      accommodating and enabling an improved educational offer in this part of
      the Borough. This could include the new diplomas, extended school
      activities and the special needs provision, as part of a wider campus use
      linked to local schools and colleges.

5.4   The broader community and social activities already provided are of
      immense value to Mayfield and northern Farnborough generally.  It is
      imperative that they are retained and encouraged to flourish.

5.5   Much of what is already happening on the Oak Farm campus has been
      achieved through partnership working. This approach needs to continue to
      ensure the development and sustainability of activities.  The Borough
      Council will continue to have a key role and should commit to playing a
      leading role in the future of the site.




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5.6       If the decision to close the school is confirmed, the County Council will need
          to work with all the partners and the local community, to develop
          management plans for the site. The County will also need to have in place
          immediate plans to ensure existing pupils can transfer to schools nearby,
          that the special needs provision can continue and that the introduction of the
          new diplomas is not interrupted.

5.7       Finally, if Oak Farm does close in 2010, the achievements of the school, its
          pupils and staff, plus its contribution to the local community, should be
          celebrated.


6         RECOMMENDATION

6.1       It is recommended that the Council's response to the County Council's
          proposal to close Oak Farm School in summer 2010 should focus on:

          i)         the need to retain the site as an educational and community
                     resource;

          ii)        the need to ensure that existing pupils are able, as far as possible,
                     to transfer to a school of their choice;

          iii)       the need to continue the special needs provision;

          iv)        the opportunity to use the campus as a wider educational resource,
                     embracing the new diplomas, in partnership with local schools and
                     colleges;

          v)         the need to retain and grow the range of community facilities and
                     activities on the campus; and

          vi)        the Borough Council's commitment to work with the County Council,
                     other partners and the local community on the plans and
                     management arrangements for the future of the campus.


ANDREW LLOYD
CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Contact:
John Edwards, Director of Community & Environment - Tel: 01252 398100



Appendix:
Consultation paper




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