The educational world is changing at a rapid rate. The academy agenda is still driving forward and there's decreasing reliance on local authorities for school improvement support. Collaborative school-led improvement is the future and standalone Primary Schools will become a thing of the past.
For our school, we believe building local collaborations is the way forward in this climate and we want to lead the way. We've already forged some excellent external links that have helped us in recent years. Mr Crawford's role has a School Improvement Adviser has bought in a wealth of connections, ideas and up to date information, we've worked closely with cluster schools on joint INSET training and our talented staff team have been in involved in conferences and initiatives across the county.
As part of our shared vision, we've expressed an ambition to federate with another school. A few opportunities have been pursued by governors and earlier this year one opportunity (bought to our attention by the local authority) has emerged as a favourable option and one worth consulting further on.
What is a federation?
A federation is a formal collaboration between two or more schools that involves sharing one governing board and usually one executive headteacher. Under this structure, the board and executive headteacher act in the best interests of pupils across both schools.
Why should we consider federating?
Firstly and mostly importantly to raise educational standards. An Ofsted published report in 2011 demonstrated that federated schools report significant improvements in standards and attainment.
Federation provides wider opportunities for pupils, including shared work and projects across the two schools. It allows schools to share resources, specialist skills and enjoy greater flexibility.
It also provides wider opportunities for staff and contributes to attracting and keeping talented teachers and support staff. A larger school structure means important leadership skills can be developed and leaders for the future can be grown.
It brings financial benefits from greater purchasing power and the opportunity to share resources, along with helping to build strong links between communities.
Why Kilburn Junior School?
From early visits to Kilburn, it is clear that the schools share a similar ethos and both schools are in a strong position. The size and make up of the school is a good fit. Both schools have impressive sites with huge potential for joint projects. Kilburn is local, just a short car journey away.
Finally, both schools are approaching this possibility for the right reasons, to take the sum of the parts and create collaborative working for the betterment of pupils across both schools. Ultimately, the biggest impact on our children comes from the excellent practitioners we retain and develop. This partnership, allows the opportunity for us to become a wider, richer 'hub' for outstanding teaching and learning.
What's happened so far?
There has been a flurry of 'getting to know each other' activity over the last 6 weeks or so. There have been staff visits to each school and a joint whole staff meeting to explore ideas and opportunities alongside concerns and questions about the change.
A working party of governors has been established. This is made up of myself, Louise Rowland (Kilburn Chair of Governors), Nick Barnes and Nicola Hardy from Kilburn and Rachel Watson and John White from the Smalley governing board. This group has liaised closely with the local authority and Senior School Improvement Adviser, Sue Potter, for support and advice.
We also held open parents meetings at Kilburn and Smalley last Thursday, 7 July. We had 33 parents visit the Kilburn meeting and 6 at Smalley. Both meetings were an opportunity to air and share frank views on the changes proposed. The senior leaders across both schools also shared their personal reasons for wanting to pursue a federation. We also answered all the questions that were sent in by parents across both schools.
We will continue working together as part of informal consultation, prioritising shared opportunities for pupils and staff. The formal consultation will begin in September and last for 6 weeks. For this stage, the working party will produce a proposal for both governing boards to review and decide on. Throughout the formal consultation it is vital that all stakeholders make their views known so that a clear and informed decision can be made. If both governing boards approve the proposal, then one new governing board will be established and we hope the federation to begin in January 2017.
If you have any comments, suggestions or questions about the this significant change for your school, please get in touch. Contact Mr Crawford at school, or myself by email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to all those parents, staff, governors and other local authority colleagues who have contributed to discussions so far.