Norfolk’s first four-school federation described as a success after its first year

PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 April 2014

With headteacher Mary Dolan are pupils (from left) Sydney Horne (10), India Weston (11), Chloe Simmons (10) and Connor Neale (11). Picture: Ian Burt

With headteacher Mary Dolan are pupils (from left) Sydney Horne (10), India Weston (11), Chloe Simmons (10) and Connor Neale (11). Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

Leaders of Norfolk’s first four-school federation have described the organisation as a big success after its first year.

Pupils and staff of Blakeney, Kelling, Walsingham and Hindringham primary schools, which make up the Church of England-backed Pilgrim Federation, are marking the one-year anniversary with a special service at Norwich Cathedral today.

The schools have one executive head, deputy head and governing body.

The federation was formed to help save money and to encourage the schools to work together to raise standards and ensure they remain open.

Executive headteacher Mary Dolan, deputy head Glenn Russell and vice-chairman of governors Maureen Howard believe the federation has benefited all four schools by sharing expertise and resources, providing stability and enabling pupils to make more friends.

Miss Dolan said: “One of the main reasons it works so successfully is the structure.

“In small schools, which are not federated, heads will divide their time between teaching and running the school, but here, myself and Glenn don’t have that, which means we can better plan and oversee everything and take a more strategic approach.

“We have more time to identify where pupils are doing well and where they need extra support and are now starting to see significant progress in the pupils’ work.”

Mr Russell said: “The federation provides a real sense of stability at a time when Norfolk, as a whole, has been heavily under the spotlight over education for the wrong reasons.

“I think this is the way forward for all small schools.”

Mrs Howard added: “It is clear that everybody, including pupils, staff, governors and parents have committed to the federation and with lots of enthusiasm and energy and it is all paying off.”

The federated approach is becoming increasingly attractive as school leaders look to make limited resources go further.

Norfolk County Council believes such moves are key to ensuring small schools have a bright and sustainable future.

The National Association for Small Schools (Nass) has, however, warned against federations, preferring more informal working relationships between schools.

Mervyn Benford, information officer for Nass, said: “There is no evidence to say small schools can not survive on their own do the best for everyone.

“The stronger the relationship between the head and the teachers and parents, the better and I think that is best done when a school is run independently.”

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