Town's middle schools propose joint federation

Berwick and Tweedmouth middle schools are proposing a closer working relationship.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 07:57
Brought to you by the Berwick Advertiser team.

Governors of both schools met on Monday and agreed to start a six-week consultation process on becoming a federation from September 1.

The consultation will run until June 6, and governors want to hear the views of parents and carers, staff, pupils and the wider Berwick community on this proposal.

In a joint statement, Clare Shaw and John Gilchrist, chairmen of governors at Berwick and Tweedmouth respectively, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for both middle schools to work more closely together to ensure educational excellence and improve the outcomes of all pupils.”

If the proposal goes ahead, the partnership of the two schools will be under the direction of a single governing body, which will include parent and staff representatives from both schools.

Each school will retain its own identity but the federation would have a new name and suggestions for this are welcome during the consultation process.

A federation is a formal agreement between schools to work together on a permanent basis. The partnership of the two schools is led and managed under the direction of a single governing body. However, each of the schools in the federation receives its own school budget, separate Ofsted inspection reports and has separately published results.

Both chairmen and senior staff will be available at drop-in sessions at each school over the next few weeks to answer questions and listen to comments and suggestions.

The dates are: Berwick Middle School, Monday, April 30, 5.30pm to 7pm, and Thursday, May 3, 8.30am to 10am; Tweedmouth Middle School, Thursday, May 3, 5.30pm to 7pm, and Friday, May 11, 8.30am to 10am. All welcome.

The consultation documents are available on the websites of both schools and hard copies can be obtained from each school office, where responses can be returned.

Questions and Answers Document on the proposed Hard Federation between Berwick Middle and Tweedmouth Community Middle Schools

What is a Federation?

A Federation is a formal agreement between two or more schools to work together on a permanent basis. The partnership of the two schools is led and managed under the direction of a single Governing Body including representatives of both schools. However, each of the schools in the federation receives their own school budget, separate Ofsted inspection reports and has separately published results.

Would this simply be a step to becoming an Academy?

For the Berwick Middle and Tweedmouth Community Middle Federation, both schools would remain local authority maintained schools. There are no expectations that a Federation leads to Academy status. Governors would have to consider this as a separate exercise and this is not an option we are currently considering.

Would we be able to leave the Federation if we needed to?

There is no limit of time for a Federation and can be dissolved with the agreement of the FGB. However, the governing bodies would not enter into a Federation believing it to be a temporary measure. The governing boards must consider what is in the best interests for the children.

What are the benefits?

●One joint Governing Body for the Federation would have a strategic overview of the whole of the two schools

● The opportunity for longer term planning

● Development and strengthening of leadership across both schools

● Opportunities for arrangements for sharing staffing, expertise, resourcing and administration.

It is proposed that all the leadership appointments would continue to be of the existing leadership staff in those positions in both schools.

The core principles underlining the work we do now and upon which the Federation would build

● A commitment to ensuring that children at Federation schools are provided with high quality learning experiences. They will have access to a broad and balanced curriculum taught by qualified, good and outstanding teachers.

● The schools will continue working to providing a positive, safe, and stimulating

environment where children can learn.

● Continue to be schools and communities that value diversity and enable children to celebrate their differences and achieve great things by working together.

● Learning should be enjoyable, allowing children to achieve their potential and helping them become lifelong learners who are ready and able to grasp opportunities.

● Staff in the Federation should be lifelong learners too, always looking for ways to develop their skills for their own benefit and for the children they work with.

● The schools will continue to promote the emotional, moral, spiritual, and physical development of the children at the school.

● We will continue to take an active role in the Berwick Schools Partnership and work with outside agencies and across our communities to ensure ongoing development and learning.

What are the benefits for both schools?

●The relationship between both of Berwick’s middle schools has worked well over the years and a Federation provides the opportunity to build and develop this and to share best practice to improve learning outcomes for all pupils.

●The intention is that the Federation would build on current experience to the benefit of children at both schools, not to develop a new approach to federation.

●Both schools have strong, unique identities, ethos and characters. Moving into a Federation would be an opportunity for each school to build on this by sharing the very best from the other.

●There can be a single shared vision, equality of provision and expectations across both schools set by the Governing Body with the Senior Leadership teams of both schools.

●A key aim is to enhance academic achievement and stabilise outcomes across pupil cohort. Evidence from other federations across the country is that this is a key benefit of working in a Federation.

●The Senior Leadership Team structure for both schools would be expected to become stronger and increasingly effective given opportunities for staff development and shared best practice and training.

●There would be improved capacity of the schools’ leadership in the event of illness or

leavers by having a larger leadership team.

●By sharing resources, provision could be improved for the children, particularly for arts, music, languages, sport and special educational needs and disabilities provision. This would result from the schools sharing good practice and specialisms, each school learning from the other.

●The Federation is an attractive option for teachers and support staff looking for a new challenge while providing wider opportunities for professional development for the staff of each school. These improved opportunities could help with recruitment and retention of staff.

●The Federation would provide both short and long-term stability in leadership and staffing for both schools.

●The schools can build on established shared approaches to classroom practice, such as marking and assessment, to allow staff across both schools to collaborate effectively. This would help improve and maintain standards in both schools.

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●There is the opportunity to extend extra-curricular clubs across both schools using shared resource and expertise.

There can be sharing of safeguarding practices, procedures and processes.

●There are great opportunities for support services in both schools. This includes information technology support that is linked between both schools, administrative staff supporting each other and, in some cases, working across both schools, and making financial savings and increasing efficiency by sharing purchase contracts.

What are the risks for both schools?

There are risks involved in any change. None of the risks below are new to schools deciding to federate.

●The schools struggle to form a cohesive Governing Body covering the interests of both schools and maintaining the ethos and key attributes of one or both schools.

NB. The two schools would have equal representation of staff and parents on the joint GB.

●The Federation does not develop strong enough local connections and does not meet community need.

●There is a difference of culture in the two schools which stifles or prevents effective co- operation.

●The leadership changes in the future and this changes the nature of the federation.

NB this is also true if a new Headteacher is appointed to any type of school.

●The financial economies of scale do not materialise. NB This would not leave eitherschool worse off than where it stands currently.

What is the proposed Senior Leadership structure?

There is no proposal to change these structures at present but while assigned to one school, senior staff would be expected to work across both schools where appropriate and where expertise and strengths can be shared. Further change would remain at the discretion of the newly formed governing body.

How would it affect staff?

It is not anticipated that many staff members would experience significant change in their day to day work. Governors believe a new venture such as this is an attractive option for teachers and support staff looking for a new challenge while providing welcome professional development opportunities for the staff of each school. As a Federation, the schools could continue to attract talented staff with the added benefit of opportunities to work across both schools. The Federation also provides long-term stability in leadership and development of both schools. There will be no changes to the conditions of service for existing staff.

Is there a risk that one of the schools would lose out in this arrangement?

No. The aim of the Federation is for the schools to work together in a full and equal partnership to continue to grow stronger together. The structure of the federation will enable staff members’ time and skills to be appropriately and fairly shared across both schools.

The single combined Governing Body would ensure each school’s interests were fully and equally represented and would be better placed to serve the strategic direction and development of both schools within the wider Berwick Schools Partnership. It is proposed that there will be equal parent and staff representation on the Governing Body from each of the two schools.

Would the schools keep their name and identity?

Yes. Each school will keep its own name and identity but there will be a separate name for the Federation.

Would the uniform policy remain the same?

Yes. Both schools will maintain their own policy and uniform.

Would the admissions arrangements remain the same?

Yes. Northumberland County Council’s admissions policy will continue to apply to both schools.

Would pupils be registered to the Federation or a single school?

Pupils will be on roll at a single school.

Would parents and staff be equally represented from both schools on the Governing Body?

Yes. The proposal if for one staff member from each school and two parents from each school.

Would each school keep its own budget?

Yes. Each school will receive its own funding, manage separate budgets and keep separate records of its accounts. The two schools will share the costs or combine purchasing if this means that they will be able to get better value for money.

Would the amount each school receives be affected by the Federation?

No. All school budgets are worked out using a formula based on pupil numbers for the individual school.

Would the Federation combine their SATs results?

No. Results will continue to be attributed to the individual schools.

Would the Federation be inspected by Ofsted?

No. Each school will have separate Ofsted inspections and be graded separately, as they

are now.

Would one school take the lead over the other?

No. The schools will continue to collaborate and work together as equal partners. The single

Governing Body will have equal representation from each of the two schools.

If I have questions or wish to comment on the proposal, what do I do?

An opportunity to meet with current Chairs of Governors and leadership teams will be made available. Further details of this will be communicated in writing with all stakeholders. Written comments on the proposal would be welcome.