Small schools: Does north Norfolk’s Pilgrim Federation - with four primaries - show the way ahead?

PUBLISHED: 10:01 29 July 2014 | UPDATED: 10:01 29 July 2014

Walsingham school headteacher Mary Dolan. Picture: Ian Burt

Walsingham school headteacher Mary Dolan. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

In April, the first four-school federation in Norfolk celebrated its first anniversary.

The Pilgrim Federation, made up of Blakeney, Kelling, Walsingham and Hindringham primary schools, has a single executive headteacher and deputy head – both of whom have non-teaching roles – and governing body, and about 180 pupils in total.

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Executive head Mary Dolan said Norfolk County Council initially advised the schools to slow down when forming the federation, but it was now being held up as an example to others.

Kelling’s Ofsted report, published this month, said: “The school benefits from being part of the federation in many ways.

“Staff work with others teaching similar age groups, sharing planning and ideas. They have good opportunities to take on leadership roles and improve their professional skills and careers. Pupils say they enjoy opportunities to work together, such as in the year six ‘masterclass’.”

Miss Dolan said there had not been any negative feedback from parents since federating, and each school retained its own identity.

She said: “What has made it successful is the fact that small schools of under 50, in particular, are not attracting heads, and one of the reasons is the salary is going to be quite low, and they have to be a teaching head. One of the benefits is the federation was able to attract me as an experienced head of 10 years from Cornwall, and was likewise able to attract an experienced deputy.”

She said a particular benefit of federating was that instead of four schools with two or three teachers, there were now 12 teachers who trained together fortnightly.

She said did not envisage any of the four schools closing, and added it was important children were educated in their own community.

She said: “It’s the community the children are specifically from. I think it’s really important that they identify with that, and are supported by the community. The community enriches each individual school, and likewise each individual school enriches the community.”

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