We would like to invite you to take part in a formal consultation on the proposed merger of Cippenham Infant and Cippenham Primary Schools
The Gold Rose MAT is a charitable education trust responsible for the two schools located in Dennis Way and Elmshott Lane in Cippenham, Slough. Cippenham Infant School has a roll of 270 pupils from 5 to 7 years (reception to year 2). Cippenham Primary School has a roll of 840 pupils from 5 to 11 years (reception to year 6).
Through this consultation we want to work with you to ensure the schools are able to continue providing the best education possible.
We aspire to excellence and aim to ensure every pupil is able to demonstrate achievements which are personally exceptional. This aspiration will continue to guide us in our decision making.
Trustees of The Gold Rose MAT are proposing to merge Cippenham Infant School and Cippenham Primary School into one primary school, to be called Cippenham Academy.
The newly merged school will have the same number of pupils on roll, organised into five forms of entry from reception to year 6. There will be one formal admission point in reception year, aged 5, which means that parents with children at the infant school will no longer be required to apply for a place at the primary school in year 3.
The consultation has now closed. Results are being collated and are published below. Thank you to everyone that took the time to respond.
Trustees of the Gold Rose MAT held 5 consultation meetings over both school sites. 3 meetings were for all stakeholders and 2 were for staff of both schools. Over the course of these meetings various valued points were raised which are captured below in our updated FAQ’s.
The meetings were held on 14, 18, 20, 26 and 27 March 2019.
Q. What will happen to the current Infant School site?
A. Both sites will be used, as there is will be the right number of classrooms for both pre and post September 2020. The Reception classes in September 2020 will be based in the free flow current Key Stage 1 area of the Primary School and the Key Stage 1 classes in September 2020 will be based at the current Infant School. The Trustees intend to work to replicate the community feel and share the best aspects of both current EYFS/KS1 set ups in the new Academy.
Q. What will happen to class sizes?
A. They will remain at 30 pupils per class.
Q. Will children at the Infant School now still have to apply to the primary school for entry at Year 3?
A. It is likely that current Year 1 pupils at CIS will need to apply for entry to the Primary School for Year 3 as per the admission process set by Slough Borough Council. Pupils currently in Reception Year at Cippenham Infant School will not have to apply for Year 3 at the Primary School provided the relevant governmental parties are able to process the merger within the set timeline.
Q. What will happen to the current teaching roles across both schools?
A. Teachers will be offered a preference system for which year band they would like to work with and the leadership team will work hard to honour this, taking into consideration the skillset of all teaching staff.
Q. What will happen to the school office at the Infant School?
A. There will be one main entrance for the Academy and this is likely to be the Elmshott Lane entrance however it is likely that there will still be some need for an administerial function in the new Key Stage 1 building which may serve, alongside the main office, any of the four school buildings as required.
Q. How does the Trust plan to keep the cost of the merger low and where are the cost savings in the merger plan?
A. The cost of the merger is a small fee comparative to the cost of running the two schools as they currently run in the long term. There are many costs which are statutorily attached to each school under the current structure and this would ease this financial strain. A leaner leadership team and a restructure of the use of staff over time will also have a positive impact financially without having a negative impact on teaching and learning. Economies of scale regarding contracts, standing charges and IT infrastructure will also benefit a joint budget.
Q. Is the Regional Schools Commissioner likely to support the merger?
A. It has been made clear to Trustees that the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC) Office will not let the schools continue on towards a deficit budget and due to on-going budgetary cuts this is unavoidable in the current structure. The message from the RSC is that the status quo is unsustainable and if the Trustees do not take these steps to secure a merger; which is positive for all pupils with input from staff and parents; then the RSC may well take steps to unite the Gold Rose MAT with a larger Multi-Academy Trust. Being absorbed by a new MAT will make it difficult to retain the culture and ethos of the Cippenham Schools and as such, the Trustees and leadership teams will have little control over the future.
Q. With regard to issues surrounding transition; can these not be solved notwithstanding a merger?
A. The leadership teams across both schools have been working closely together over a period of years. They have put in a huge amount of work to iron out issues relating to pupil transition at the end of Year 2 however the evidence still shows that the work that happens in Year 3 to get all pupils settled into the same ways of working, leads to a loss of valuable teaching time and that is evident in outcomes at the end of Year 6. Some pupils find the adjustment from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 uneventful however it is a lot more difficult for many pupils and the change of schools at this time exacerbates this change.
Q. Will OFSTED visit as soon as the schools are merged?
A. OFSTED will visit as per their regular cycle and it is difficult to dictate when this might be.
Q. Will all parents be required to buy new uniform as soon as the new school opens?
A. No, the current uniforms at both sites are sufficiently similar and so it will be easy to phase a new uniform using the same rose emblem over a period of time.
Q. Are Trustees sure that the merger will make enough of an impact to financially safeguard the future of the new academy?
A. The 5 year budget plan which forms the basis of the financial reasoning for the merger shows a considerable saving going forwards compared to the current budget trends for both schools. Cuts elsewhere in education leading to a loss of vital funded interventions for pupils also means that a merger will afford the new school the flexibility to buy in support where required, paying less for one contract than for two.
Q. How do the schools intend to maintain a consistent level of education in regards to the Year 1 & 2 'Guinea pig' groups from Sept 2020 and what safeguards do we plan on putting in place to identify if and when the merger of the two year groups starts to flag up issues with delivering education?
A. Pupil progress is closely monitored by the leadership teams and tracked diligently by teachers and leaders to ensure all pupils remain on track and are achieving to the best of their ability. The staff teams will be working hard to ensure pupils and their teachers are not greatly affected through this process and if it appears that the process is having an impact on pupil progress this will be noted and dealt with swiftly; though the impact on teaching and learning should be minimal.
Q. Who will be making the decisions that impact teaching and learning and when will this be confirmed?
A. A single leadership team will work together to make decisions on the most effective ways of working going forwards – the trustees will not be involved in these decisions. There is a timeline in place and the newly formed leadership team is likely to have been selected and working together for the benefit of the pupils by the end of 2019. There will be incremental change as a part of good practice to ensure a smooth transition for pupils.
Q. Is there any possibility that the merger might not go ahead?
A. The messages received from the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) points to the fact that they are very likely to give their permission for the merger to go ahead. The overriding consideration for trustees is whether the merger will have a positive impact on pupils. Trustees believe strongly that this will be the case and will be able to demonstrate this to the RSC. The outcome is likely to be known by September 2019 though this is dependent on external factors.
Q. Could the process take place quicker to avoid staff anxiety over the consultation process and what is the timeline for the process?
A. The process as it has been set out is very robust and takes place in this timeframe to allow for all considerations and to ensure compliance with all areas of governance and DfE guidelines. There is no intention to make drastic changes to the main staff structure of the school; there will still be the same number of classes and children with additional needs. The timeline for the staff consultation process will be confirmed and is likely to take place in stages.
Q. If the merger does not have the desired effect financially what will the outcome be?
A. The 5 year business plan shows a likelihood that the merger will have a positive financial impact though this cannot be certain. There will be no way of knowing what the landscape will look like over the coming years for education and budgets though these considerations will stay at the forefront of the trustees agenda. If the financial status of the academy improves this will have a positive effect on teaching and learning as budgets will be formalised to support pupil areas of need.
Q. What can staff do to familiarise themselves with the site at which they do not currently work.
A. There will be lots of opportunity over the coming months for cross-site working together such as joint INSETs and the leadership team will consider other events for staff going forwards.
Q. Are staff going to have to reapply for their current roles?
A. It is too early to pre-empt the technical nature of staff consultation and there are formal steps that will need to be taken in some cases to ensure a fair and accountable process however all staff are currently already employed by the trust and this will not change in the majority of cases.
Q. If the merger goes ahead what will be the next priority in the eyes of the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC)?
A. Education is a changeable landscape and the future is very dependent on governmental decisions which are impossible to predict. As long as the trust is taking steps that the RSC believes is the correct action, they will allow the trust to make the choices it feels are best with the RSC remit.
Q. Who monitors the budget plan?
A. The budget is closely monitored regularly by trustees and scrutinised by the audit and finance committee and the external auditors. The annual accounts are published on the trust website. The principals also interrogate the budgets for their schools, and budgets are in line with expected outturn however the General Annual Grant funding from the government does not leave much room once essential costs and staffing are factored in. Once the schools merge the budget will also merge.
Q. Do trustees feel that the adaptation of the site will lead to upheaval for parents and how will trustees make it feel like one school?
A. There will be easy access to the entire site once relevant changes are made. The Primary School already consists of several buildings. The updated site will be one site comprised of all of the different buildings across it with flow through for staff, pupils and parents. The trustees and leadership team will take expert external advice on how best to achieve this
Q. Will the admissions policy remain as it is until the merger takes place?
A. Yes, changes to the admission policy will only take place once the process is agreed.
Q. What steps will be taken to ensure that the ‘community feel’ of the Infant School is maintained within a larger setting?
A. The leadership team will work with staff and parents to create a harmonious setting for younger pupils and will take the best practice from both schools to ensure that all pupils experience the best that the Cippenham Schools have to offer. The consultation is also a key part of the process in ensuring that the trustees hear from parents, staff and other stakeholders what they value most about the two schools to ensure we retain the best practice from both.
Q. Have trustees researched the impact on outcomes in a larger school?
A. Heather Clements, Trustee, has extensively evaluated the impact previously in schools in Harrow. There are positives and negatives to all sizes of school however these arise not from the size of the school but the internal organisation and levels of responsibility within the leadership structure, ensuring all pupils are supported throughout their school career. The year group size across Key Stage 2 will not be changing and the principal of the new school has experience of working with the current Key Stage 2 year group sizes and securing outcomes. This practice can be mirrored at Key Stage 1. The number of primary schools with over 1000 pupils has risen by 60% in the last three years and the size is justified by the DfE and RSC. With that in mind, pupils still move around the school in their class groups of thirty pupils and their year bands. Staff know their pupils well in both the Infant and Primary Schools and pride themselves on their day to day interactions.
Q. Are there likely to be any staff redundancies?
A. The staff consultation will take place once this consultation has been concluded and so it is hard to speculate on this process ahead of time. Over the course of the next few years many staff will naturally chose to move on and further their career as is common in teaching and supporting learning. The pupil numbers will remain the same as will the number of pupils with additional needs and so this will mean there will be no drastic changes to the main structure of the new school. The main aim is to ensure that the pupils receive the support that they need and the staff are all working for the betterment of the pupils.
Q. Will there be any impact on pupils with AEN?
A. No, both schools have an outstanding track record in working with pupils with additional needs and though this may look different in each school, the support that pupils receive across the trust is exemplary. The Primary School holds a SENDIA award for achievement in this area and the Infant school is also renowned for the support that staff give to their pupils. Access across both sites to resources such as the hub and the learning zone can only enhance provision for all pupils across both sites.
Q. Has there been any consideration to involving Cippenham Nursery in these decisions?
A. Whilst academies are free to offer nursery school provision as a part of their structure, it is currently not possible for maintained nursery schools such as Cippenham Nursery School to join an academy. However the Trust will continue to work closely with the nursery school in ensuring the best education for local children.