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One head plan in shake-up for Lizard primary schools
7:00am Thursday 11th April 2013 in Cornwall
A shake up of primary schools on the Lizard Peninsula is set to see one headteacher take charge of five schools.
A “substantial” reduction in government funding means the schools are having to look at different ways to avoid closure.
Historically small schools have been given a ‘smaller schools grant’, but from April 1 this year that has been taken away.
Funding is now given per pupil and schools are being forced to look at ways of reducing costs.
Tom Harman is already headteacher of the Keskowethyans Primary Schools Partnership involving St Keverne, Coverack, Manaccan and Ruan Minor, which share resources.
Now St Martin Primary School has asked to join the partnership, after splitting from its previous link with Garras Primary School last summer.
Chris Hosken, chairman of the governors at St Martin, said there had been talks with the other four schools for the last four or five years and the timing was now right.
Although the funding changes had driven it, he stressed that main reason behind it was the belief it would benefit the pupils.
“There will be more social activity and the children will have a greater basis of friends and colleagues they will be mixing with,” he said.
Mr Hosken added: “I wouldn’t want to go back to being an isolated school again. This is good for all of us; the camaraderie is really good.”
He said it would be “like a school with long corridors.”
The news received a mixed reaction at last week’s meeting of St Keverne Parish Council, when chairman Russell Peters said: “I’ve had several parents somewhat concerned as to what is happening and in particular with another school being attached to where a headmaster is already trying to serve four schools.
“Personally I fail to see how one headmaster can deal with and give his services for the benefit of our children in five schools.”
Councillor Sarah Lyne declared an interest in the matter, as she works at St Keverne and Coverack primary schools, but told councillors: “If we don’t make these savings the schools will close, no doubt about it.
“Because Cornwall Council is stepping back from this they will say we closed our own schools, because we haven’t been responsible in using the money we have been given.”
She added that this had been discussed by the various governing bodies “time and time again” and there were “responsible people” taking the decision.
Mrs Lyne also said St Martin had had a part time headteacher since last July and only had access to her for two and a half days a week.
By joining the schools partnership a headteacher would be on site one day a week and be accessible five days a week.
Since the four schools partnership formed results in all of them had improved, she added.
Councillor Roger Combe said headteachers were more like “managers” these days and in business it was possible to manage five companies without a problem, while councillor David Lambrick said even when he was a child, at Helston Grammar School, the headmaster never taught and just did administration.
He added: “I think we have got to remember if we want to keep these rural schools we have got to go about it in a different way.”
Councillor Anthony Richards said: “Surely if the children are being educated in an acceptable way and they’re getting to the standards they should be, what difference does it make?”
He reminded members that a few years ago there was talk of a large school being built on Goonhilly Downs and children being bussed in from the surrounding villages, adding: “No one would want that.”
Tom Harman, who is already executive headteacher of the four partnership schools, said St Martin would be included on a temporary basis during the summer term, with the aim of making formal arrangements for the new school year in September.
He added that the addition of a fifth school gave the opportunity to look at a slightly different structure and financial leeway to discuss the possibility of an assistant headteacher being appointed as support to him and the individual schools.
“All the staff in all the schools are behind it and that’s reassuring,” said Mr Harman.
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