During the past six weeks we have held a period of consultation to enable those involved to share any concerns they may have following the decision of Bildeston and Whatfield Schools Governing Bodies to consider becoming a Federation. This process has now ended and we would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond.
Many of the questions that have been raised have similar themes and we thought it would be beneficial to share the answers more widely so that everyone receives the same message. Please find below a summary of the questions that have been raised with their answers. We hope you will find this informative and helpful
Q1) What are the alternatives to federating? Will either school be looking to join an Academy?
Over the last 2 years governors have looked at a number of options and would not be pursuing the federation if they did not believe it to be the right option. Both schools would like a more assured status than the collaboration currently gives, but have not been convinced that joining an academy brings this. As a result Federation is seen as the best option for both schools and there are no current plans to join an academy.
Q2) Are there plans to convert to an academy in the future?
Both governing bodies have spent a great deal of time considering the best options for their school and currently both are convinced that forming a Federation is the best course of action. It does not rule out joining an academy in the future but at this point having looked at what academies have to offer there are no plans to join an academy.
Q3) What provisions are in place if a school did decide it no longer wanted to be in the federation?
Coming out of a Federation is difficult as it involves the splitting of a legal entity and that is in part why both governing bodies have taken their time to ensure that this is the correct way forward for both schools. On rare occasions Federations can be dissolved and should we ever get to that point then there is a process to follow. However the new single governing body would have to be absolutely clear in their own minds as to why dissolution is the best way forward and the effects on both schools.
Q4) How much notice will staff be given if they are asked to work at the partner school?
The mobility policy states that we would aim at a minimum of 48 hours, although this can be less with the agreement of the member of staff concerned. It should be noted that specifically asking staff to be in the partner school is not expected to happen very often and has happened very rarely in the past 3 years of collaboration, and always by consultation.
Q5) How responsible will teachers in one school be responsible for the results in the partner school?
The primary responsibility for each school’s results remains with the teaching team in each school. Where shared responsibilities for subject leadership exist then it is reasonable for the leaders to take responsibility for the quality of the teaching programme that is put in place but not for the results of the partner school.
Q6) Will roles and responsibilities be clarified for staff?
Yes – We will ensure that there are updated job descriptions in place where they are required and would aim to have all of them in place by the start of the federation.
Q7) Could you clarify what you mean by shared “ethos and identity?”
This could perhaps have been worded better in our previous note. Having a shared ethos means that we expect both schools to have a shared spirit, attitudes and aspirations especially with regard to pupil learning. The identity of each school will however still be maintained where we have one church school and one community school and as previously stated there are no plans to change this. The governing body will be responsible for ensuring that the Federation builds a strong ethos but maintains the two individual identities.
Q8) There are 2 Foundation Governors in the proposed new Governing Body although Bildeston is a non-denominational school, why is this?
This is a non-negotiable requirement of the Diocese but is quite normal when a Church school is involved in a Federation. There is no intention to change the characteristics of each individual school. Whatfield will remain a Church School and Bildeston will remain a Community School.
Q9) The composition of the governing body states that there will be only 1 staff governor and a number of co-opted governors. How will balance between the two schools be maintained on the new governing body?
It is hoped that the final governing body will have an equal balance of numbers between the two schools, this does however depend on there being sufficient people willing to serve on the new governing body. We would expect staff representation from both schools and therefore at least one of the co-opted positions will be specifically for a staff governor to ensure this.
Q10) With one governing body and one set of sub-committees how is each school going to maintain their own identity?
One of the key benefits of federating is that it reduces the burden of meetings so rather than having separate meetings within each school these can be combined. Each committee will be acutely mindful of the need to ensure that any policies / programmes of work offer a broad and educationally inspiring curriculum but do not compromise the individuality of each school.
With the consultation now at an end, both governing bodies will meet separately on the 18th December to independently review the outcome of the consultation. A vote will then take place on whether they wish to formally federate. Clearly Federation will only be possible if both schools agree.
We look forward to advising you of the outcome in due course.
Phil Clark (Chair of Governors Whatfield School) & Ros Cohen (Chair of Governors Bildeston School)
Dear Parents / Carers,
It is now three years since the Governors of both Bildeston and Whatfield Schools decided to form a Collaboration.
As a Collaboration we have shared a Head Teacher and worked hard to forge closer working links that create improved learning opportunities for pupils as well as allowing teachers to share best practice and access a greater breadth of professional development.
During the three years of the Collaboration the Governing bodies of both schools have regularly evaluated the progress of the collaboration and are very pleased with how the arrangement has been working. So far it has delivered improvement in both schools budgets, staff and pupils have commented on the extra opportunities that have opened up to them and we have seen improved progress in pupils learning. Bildeston Schools’ recent OFSTED Inspection commented on the value of the arrangement and the benefits it has brought to the school.
The Collaboration has meant that both schools have kept their usual arrangements for meetings etc. and this has come at a cost which is largely related to the time that has to be spent in meetings by the Head Teacher, Staff and Governors as a consequence of running two separate Governing Bodies.
At meetings earlier this term the Governing Body of both schools voted to formally explore making the Collaboration more permanent by becoming a Federation. This will ultimately see both schools come under one Governing Body.
Although the Governing Bodies have voted to explore forming a Federation it does not mean that the decision is final. The final decision will be taken by both Governing Bodies after all necessary consultations have taken place.
The Governors see this as the next natural step for both Schools. From a day to day perspective there is likely to be little visible change. From behind the scenes it will enable us to improve the efficiency of people’s time whether this is in lesson and curriculum planning, budget monitoring, personnel planning or in overall Governance of the schools.
The exploration towards becoming a Federation will start in mid-September when there will be a statutory 6 week consultation period for staff and parents/carers. You will be able to ask questions and consider the plans for the future. With the term ending at the end of next week we wanted to make you aware of our thinking before the summer break.
Please look out in the autumn term for more information and details of times where there will be opportunities to ask any questions that you might have.
May we wish you all a fantastic end to the term and a relaxing summer break.
Ros Cohen (Chair Of Governors – Bildeston) & Phil Clark (Chair Of Governors - Whatfield)