Schools form partnership

THE infant and junior schools in Backwell will forge a formal partnership from September, while options over their future are discussed.

North Somerset Council has revealed changes are afoot, following the departure of headteacher Nik Gardner, of West Leigh Infant School, at the end of the summer term.

The council’s school organisation plan states when the head of separate infant and junior schools leaves it should consider measures to link them, to create the benefits of a primary school.

One option for the schools is to federate, meaning they would have one headteacher and their governing bodies would merge, but the schools would retain separate identities.

Historically, infant and junior schools which are next to each other amalgamate following the departure of a headteacher, a new name is chosen and it has a single governing body.

But because the Backwell schools are based at different sites an amalgamation would see younger pupils based in the West Leigh buildings and older children at the junior school.

To progress this option the authority has to prove it would financially benefit the school community.

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The council’s executive member for children and young person’s services, Cllr Jeremy Blatchford told the Times the idea has not been ruled out.

He said: “It has become quite fashionable for amalgamations to happen between two schools at different sites.

“Look at all the academies springing up where there are feeder primary schools attached.

“In theory children can be admitted at the age of four and go right through until they are 18.

“It offers quite a high degree of continuity and flexibility.”

Other advantages of joining schools include raising standards by sharing resources and training, offering children greater opportunities by co-ordinating joint activities, drawing from a wider pool of expertise from parents, governors and teaching staff and easing the transition for pupils entering the junior school.

However, the authority says both becoming full primary schools would be financially unviable and unpopular with residents.

Governing bodies of both schools have been working closely together with the help of council officers and it is hoped this will lead to them federating in time.

It is understood parents at both schools were told in June the headteacher of the junior school, Alex Bell, will also take over leadership of the infant school for the next academic year.

The arrangement will be reviewed for the following academic year.