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Two becomes one-the diary of a school merger:June 2019

With the merger of Cippenham Infant and Primary Schools well underway, this blog attempts to update stakeholders on progress towards a smooth transition in September 2020.

How did it become June already? Difficult to know when the clock starts ticking-when trustees formally resolved to pursue a merger of the two schools in February, when the stakeholder consultation was concluded or when The Regional Schools Commissioner gives consent? Whichever is point A of this journey it is point B that is the focus of our timeline. September 2020 may seem a point in the distance but it will resonate with my first sentence only too  quickly.

Where are we now? Well the consultation with stakeholders was largely (around 88%) in favour of the two schools merging, with respondents offering a range of comments and suggestions for trustees to consider. This blog is in response to many comments requesting ongoing information, a perceptive recognition of how a significant change like this can spawn misinformation and speculation and also a desire to ensure the talent pool of staff we have is not disrupted.

Staff  have all been briefed on the consultation process for achieving a staffing structure for one school. Phase 1 for senior leaders has already begun and the aim is to complete all staff consultations by Easter 2020. Training and school visits will form part of this process. Trustees and governors are very mindful of the need to protect well-being and I am visiting the headteacher of a school recently amalgamated to learn from their experience of bringing two schools together.

Once the senior team is in place we can work together to combine the best of both schools to achieve an ambitious and motivating vision for our newly merged school. The school name will be a part of this - 'The Cippenham School' is currently the favourite after a number of parents commented with reservations on the use of 'Academy' in the school name.

A transition unit is being planned for pupils in Year 2, which will bridge their move into Year 3. This takes the form of a four week literacy unit, spread over two weeks in July and two weeks in September, using shared language, expectation and assessment so that all children can start year 3 with a common curriculum experience. We will use what we learn from this unit to plan further transition units to support the joining together of years one, two and three in September 2020.

A business case for merging the two schools has been submitted to the Regional Schools Commissioner and we expect to hear from this office before the end of August.

An architect has made a preliminary visit to the site and will share some initial ideas about how we might open up and make the best use of our grounds and accommodation. We can then share ideas more widely and prepare plans for ensuring the site provides an inspiring and purposeful environment for one large primary school.  

Other areas like finance and governance are also being looked at but our compelling thread at the moment is around creating unity and a sense of promise and potential for our future. We are using the term 'merge' when talking about the two schools becoming one - unite, unify, combine could act as synonyms. 'Marriage' is also sometimes used and there is plenty of advice about being open, honest, respectful and adding value to one another which we can usefully follow. There is a quote from our current Queen which also captures what we are trying to achieve:

" I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together"

I will continue to update you over the coming months - hopefully we will live up to this winning formula.

Nicky Willis - Executive Principal