Proposed Merger Of SET Maidstone & SET Causton Schools
Seckford Education Trust would like to thank parents, carers, stakeholders, and the wider community for engaging in our recent public consultation, which ran from 21st June to 15th August.
The consultation encouraged views on the proposed merger of SET Maidstone and SET Causton to form one all-through primary school for September 2022 and the combined admission arrangements which would be necessary should the schools merge. It was widely publicised to parents, members of the community and stakeholders through letters, media articles, social media, the website and digital advertising.
Responses To The Consultation
The online survey received 72 responses. Of these, 53% of responses were in favour of the proposed merger going ahead.
Of the SET Maidstone parents and carers who submitted an online response, 57% were in favour of the proposed merger. Of those in favour, they felt the merger would provide more opportunities for SET Maidstone students and remove the need for unnecessary transition. One response said: ‘I think it would streamline the school years and possibly remove any anxiety for children if they are not seen as two separate schools as such.’
Additionally, 12 parents, 5 stakeholders and 55 members of the community emailed questions/comments or attended the consultation events hosted at the schools and online during the consultation
The Trust intends to put forward an application for a pedestrian crossing to be placed immediately outside of the current SET Causton site. It will also make changes to the front of the school so that there are additional areas for parents and carers to drop off and collect their children at the start/end of the day.
If the Regional Schools Commissioner supports the application to merge the two schools, the Head of School and SENCO will work closely with each and every pupil and family to design a personal transition programme. The decision by the Regional Schools Commissioner will be known in mid-September and as such there will be time to devise each plan.
There will be separate play areas and play grounds for the younger children along with slightly different timings of the day so that the restaurant and other social areas are never over-crowded.
SET Maidstone staff will also be moving with the students and so there will still be lots of familiar faces for students and parents alike. In addition, we will organise various schemes whereby the older children will work with some of younger children. This will include peer reading.
The Seckford Education Trust Board is confident it can address the questions raised during the consultation, so it has therefore decided to proceed with its application to the Regional Schools Commissioner for the proposed merger. Further updates will be posted when a response is received from the Regional Schools Commissioner.
Questions and answers
The Trust will not take a final decision on the question until the consultation process has been completed.
You have the option of providing your comments in writing (in whatever format you would prefer) or by coming to one of our consultation sessions.
You also have the option of making an appointment to meet with either Mrs Lucy Thompson (Head of School) or Mr Mark Barrow (Chief Executive Officer) if you would like to discuss the proposal further.
The Trust Board will then consider any comments / representations received before making a final decision.
We are exploring whether to merge SET Maidstone (an infant school with an age range of 3 to 7) with SET Causton (a junior school with an age range of 7 to 11) to form one school based at the SET Causton site (Maidstone Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk, IP11 9ED).
If the Trust Board decides to go ahead with the proposal, this would take effect for September 2022.
The proposal would involve the following:
- The site at SET Maidstone would be closed and the infant classes would join the juniors on the SET Causton site. We would need to carry out some work over the summer period next year in order to put in facilities appropriate for our infant pupils;
- The SEN Unit which currently supports some of our pupils at SET Maidstone would be relocated onto the SEN Causton site but there would be no other changes to the SEN provision anticipated from the merger;
- The admission arrangements for both schools would be varied to create a single set of new admission arrangements for the merged primary school. These admission arrangements would:
- Set a published admission number (PAN) for Reception Year only (as the admission arrangements for SET Maidstone do now);
- Set no PAN for Year 3, as Year 2 pupils would automatically progress to Year 3 as they do in every other primary school (this would not prevent parents of current Year 2 pupils seeking a place in Year 3 elsewhere, or parents of prospective pupils from submitting an application for in-year admission to Year 3);
- Include various changes required for reasons of compliance with the new School Admissions Code 2021 (which is currently awaiting parliamentary approval, expected early July 2021, and due to come into force on 1 September 2021). This includes making the policy much clearer for parents, staff and trustees;
- Make no changes to the current material criteria (for example, oversubscription criteria, distance measuring, tie breaker, etc.) used to determine how places are allocated (with the exception of the changes relating to the PAN outlined above).
- We are also consulting on a proposed reduction in PAN for Reception Year from 75 to 45 in recognition of a significant trend in falling pupil numbers across Felixstowe which mirrors the falling birth rate in the area, and indeed many parts of London.
We are exploring this option as we think that:
- The Proposal would bring a more seamless transition for pupils from key stage 1 into key stage 2 and it would remove the need for an admissions process at that stage;
- It would enable us to bring the two communities closer together on the one site to facilitate 1) greater sharing of teaching and learning strategies and collaboration between colleagues; 2) peer mentoring; 3) a whole school approach to the development of important life skills such as social interaction, independence, creativity, physical capability and communication and language skills; 4) a rewards and House system that will support students from reception to Year 6.
- It would be more sustainable for us to operate on one site rather than to manage two sites;
- The two schools are already managed as one school with a single Head of School (Mrs Thompson) who already looks after both of the schools;
- The distance between the two sites is less than half a mile and equates to a five minute walk and so the potential additional travel time is low;
- Pupils would attend one larger school which would be better equipped to meet curriculum requirements, as well as a wider range of educational and extra-curricular opportunities; and
- The experience and expertise of the Trust would ensure that we could continue to sustain and improve the strength of these schools as one larger merged school.
We are giving detailed consideration to how we could use a joint site to broaden our curriculum and broaden our enrichment and elective programme activities
Yes in part. Due to a fall in birth rates in our local area, there are fewer pupils on roll in these two schools than we had previously. The fall in numbers reflects the position nationally and the position faced by other local schools. This fall is expected to continue until at least 2030. We think the two schools could be stronger together.
The two sites were originally built to accommodate greater numbers of pupils than we have in the schools today. (SET Maidstone was built for 225 pupils and SET Causton was built for 300. By bringing the two schools together on our Causton site, we would be able to accommodate 363 students. ].
Our Trust’s strategic objectives are to:
- Deliver consistent quality of education
- Build resilience, capacity and sustainability
We are considering the merger as we think that it could help support both of these objectives.
We have currently considering the following:
- The impact on next year’s reception and year 1 children of moving to a different site. (Without the merger, these children would transfer to the junior school site at the end of year 2 (or move on to an alternative school)).
- The cost of any building work which is needed at the Causton site to accommodate the infant children. We would have to balance this against the cost of maintaining the two sites in the longer term.
The strength of the two schools has been sustained through the hard work of our staff and with the support of our parents. However, the fall in numbers means that we do need to consider the sustainability of the schools. Splitting our resources between the two sites over time would not be
an efficient use of our resources. We think that by combining forces we could enhance the pupils’ experience of their time at school and we could increase opportunities for all.
The merged school
The school would continue to be led by Mrs Lucy Thompson as the schools are now. The teaching of the children, their wrap around care and the extra-curricular activities would only be enhanced by the Proposal in terms of what we could achieve together on the one site.
There would be some changes, in particular that:
- Pupils on the SET Maidstone site would need to travel to the SET Causton site; and
- The SET Causton school would need to be adapted to accommodate the infant pupils. Draft site plans confirm that the site can accommodate all pupils.
The Causton site has a designated restaurant and considerable outdoor space, including a playing field, playground and a forest school area. Pupils would also have access to banks of computers and dedicated areas for intervention, including Thrive. Parents would also find pick up and drop off easier due to the size of the Causton site.
Alongside the children, the staff in our schools are very important to us and their contribution throughout the pandemic has been tremendous, running in-school and remote learning provision as well as providing food parcels and vouchers, pastoral support, home visits and home learning packs. We are consulting with our staff on the proposed changes and the impact it might have on them.
Under the current arrangements, SET Maidstone and SET Causton are operated by the same Trust (alongside three other schools) and overseen by a Board of Trustees. Our local governance arrangements for the two schools are already secured through a shared ‘Local Advisory Board. This Board currently has representatives from the parent, staff and local community on it.
As these shared arrangements are already in place, we wouldn’t propose to change the existing arrangements and would want to keep our local representation in place.
The merged school would have a new name and we are inviting suggestions for a new name through the consultation. There is a specific question on this in the online survey.
On a day to day basis, the pupils and teaching staff would probably see little change, apart from the fact that more pupils would be based on the SET Causton school site and it would be a larger site.
Over the short to longer term, the merger could put the merged school in a stronger position, which would ultimately benefit everyone. We would hope to be able to offer a wider range of extra-curricular and elective provision and would hope to facilitate even greater collaboration between colleagues.
This land is currently owned by Suffolk County Council and we lease the site from them. At this stage, we are not aware of any proposals in relation to the site, were we to vacate it. The future use of the site would be a matter for the local authority to deal with in accordance with its Local Plan. Responsibility for the site in the meantime would revert to the local authority.
In considering this proposal, the Trust is mindful of its duty to have due regard to the need to:
- eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Equality Act 2010;
- advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
- foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
The relevant protected characteristics are:
c) gender re-assignment;
d) pregnancy and maternity;
f) religion or belief;
g) sex; and
h) sexual orientation.
The Trust will be carrying out its own assessment of any such impact on the protected characteristics of a decision to move forward with the merger, but if there is anything related to this which you would like to draw to the Trust’s attention, please do let us know.