Now Seaton, Shute and Kilmington primary schools, as well as Colyton, are proposed to have new governance arrangements: there is a need for full discussion among parents, residents and local councillors
IMPORTANT NOTE: This post has been revised following a response from the Governance Consultancy at Babcock LDP who work in a joint venture arrangement with DCC to provide services for Devon Schools. (13.2.20, 6 pm)
The Ofsted grading of Colyton Primary School as ‘inadequate’ is having big knock-on effects for their partner schools in Seaton (sports day pictured above), Shute and Kilmington, which make up the Axe Beacon Federation of schools, currently maintained by Devon County Council. According to Babcocks, significant problems have also come to light in the other schools, and the changes are also designed to address these. These are the proposals now being pursued by the Federation Governors with support from Babcocks:
Colyton. The law requires ‘inadequate’ schools to be transferred to a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), so the Federation governors propose that Colyton be transferred either to First Federation MAT – based in Newton Abbot, but with an ‘East Hub’ which includes Sidmouth, Musbury and Exmouth Brixington primaries, and which is the MAT which has already been brought in to resolve the issues which Ofsted identified – or Acorn MAT, based in Axminster. While Colyton is a not a faith school, both these MATs are Church of England-based. (Incidentally, First has one school, Gatehouse Academy, which was also rated ‘Inadequate’ after First took it over in 2017, but I am told it has since been improved.)
The Axe Beacon Federation. The governors propose that the Federation be dissolved, but the three other schools will remain as maintained schools, albeit working with different partners from Colyton.
Seaton Primary School. I am told this will ‘enter into a partnership’ with FORT Federation, based at Awliscombe primary near Honiton, which also includes Payhembury. These are both C of E schools and the trust has a Christian ethos; Seaton, of course, is not a faith school. However but Babcocks claim that this is not a critical consideration, and that ‘Seaton will remain a community primary school’.
Shute and Kilmington primaries. It is proposed that these schools will become stand-alone primaries but will be overseen by the leadership of the Devon Moors Federation, which as the name suggests is based outside East Devon, including Chittlehampton C of E Primary School, Copplestone Primary School, Filleigh Primary School and Spreyton Primary School.
I am concerned about these proposals on several grounds:
- I am concerned that problems in one school, Colyton, which seem to be due partly to the long-term illness of the Federation’s Executive Headteacher, should be the trigger for a wholesale dissolution of the Federation rather than resolving the specific issues in Colyton and indeed in the other schools. However I am reassured that Seaton, Shute and Kilmington will stay as community maintained schools.
- I am concerned that the four schools, which are used to working together, will be working with three different trusts or federations, one of which is entirely outside East Devon.
- While fully respecting the work the Church of England does in its schools, the transfer of Colyton, a non-faith school, to a faith-based trust is a concern and should have the full-hearted consent of parents. As I understand it, the non-faith character of the other schools will not be changed, although they are working with faith-based federations.
- While some information has been provided to Colyton parents, and there is to be a meeting of them with the Governors on 4th March at 6pm, I have not been made aware of information provided to or consultation with parents at the other three schools. Babcocks state that the governors are not required to consult on the changes and that they are in the best interests of children in Seaton, Shute and Kilmington.
In my view, it is essential that these proposals should be the subject of the fullest consultation with parents and the local communities, including the town and parish councils. There have been cases where parents have not accepted the transfer of their school to a trust, and the Secretary of State has reversed that decision.
I will be meeting with Babcocks and the Chair of the Governors on 3rd March and I shall comment further after that. I am interested to hear the views of parents, teachers and other staff: please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07972 760254.