- All the current schools show good Estyn reports which are also improving. Small children benefit from a small cohesive environment and the current schools already promoted a caring environment where children felt safe
- The proposed new school a ‘super school’ is very misleading by its name. Super just means big and there is ample evidence that children thrive in smaller numbers. There is a lot of need in the area, vulnerable children from vulnerable families who are currently nurtured in the individual schools. These children will be lost in a sea of 650 faces.
- I have looked into the benefits of superschools for children's educational outcomes but it's hard to find many benefits and the feedback from other parents who children attend the super school in Port Talbot is not favourable at all!
- This individual pupil focus is particularly vital in areas of deprivation. A large school cannot provide the same sense of membership, belonging to and feeling an important part of a school community. Additionally, where pupils have additional needs, are experiencing multiple ACEs, bullying, etc, the lack of connection between parents and the school will further serve to exacerbate problems for these children, meaning minor issues and upsets are likely to be missed. The report states that ‘It is expected that parental links with the proposed new school would not be of lesser quality than they are now’ (p23), but this doesn’t take into account the missed opportunity for informal handover. The informal handover between parent and teacher at the beginning and end of the school day, that is so important for communication, simply can’t happen when children are taken to and from school on a bus.
- I specifically feel that the proposal will not be beneficial for education of Primary aged pupils who are happy in their local schools.
- I have major concerns in regards to the size meaning less quality and 1:1 teaching opportunities
Overall the number of objections received which expressed concern over quality and standards of education were relatively low and most focussed on concerns regarding the size of the proposed school.
While comments were made around evidence proving smaller schools were more beneficial, actual examples were not provided by the respondents and research undertaken by officers does not support this view. Evidence can be found however that larger schools can be beneficial. The Estyn report ‘School Size and Education effectiveness’ December 2013, states ‘Curriculum provision is better in large schools’ – demonstrating that larger schools can provide greater opportunities for teaching and learning. Full details including analysis of data gathered by Estyn is contained in the report.
Objections received make claims that schools with large pupil populations do not offer an appropriate education. While the proposed school would be larger than any other primary in Neath Port Talbot, (the largest schools in this authority have between 400 -500 pupils on average) there are other schools which would be of a similar size across Wales. If it is felt to be necessary, the school leadership team, when appointed, could explore the leadership models used by these schools to better understand and learn how large schools operate successfully.
Larger schools make allowances for the fact that they have greater numbers of pupils – work is often completed in ability groups within the class, sometimes with teacher or teaching assistant support which can be funded due to efficient management and greater flexibility of a larger budget allocation; more easily achieved in a larger school. Larger schools will not necessarily mean larger classes – but it is almost certainly the case that in larger schools classes will not contain more than two different year groups, and the greater numbers of pupils often means that classes can be set to ensure that there is a more equal distribution of children with similar needs within them, thus enabling more opportunities for specific, structured teaching activities to address those particular needs.
Children with a variety of additional learning needs can be better supported in a larger school because a greater number of staff can mean that there is wider range of expertise available to work with pupils directly or to offer support and guidance to other teachers and support staff. It is also the case that more able children often make better progress in larger schools with a larger peer group, offering greater challenge and opportunities to broaden their learning experiences.
Some objections note potential concerns with the relationships between staff and parents in a larger school, commenting that good relationships will be impossible with such a larger pupil population. There is no evidence available to suggest that this is a problem for larger schools. Despite the size of the overall school it is likely that classes within the school will remain at or below 30 pupils, and it is expected that teachers and support staff will know the pupils in their class as well as they do in any other school. Equally it is to be expected that parental relationships would be as important to the staff in the proposed new school as they are in the three current schools. Creating a larger school community does not necessarily mean that the ‘family’ feel of the current schools will no longer exist, although it may need to be planned for more carefully. It is possible to create ‘little schools’ or communities within the larger school structure, either through year/phase groups , where activities and events are planned for children and parents of those particular classes, or through systems such as House Groups, where children and classes are sub divided into separate sections within every class for events usually of a competitive nature such as sports day or eisteddfods.
School reorganisation work which has taken place across Neath Port Talbot has seen examples of small or medium sized schools merging to form larger school populations and again, despite comments received suggesting that these schools are ‘failing’, it is not the case.
Objections have been received which state that parents and children are very happy with their current schools and that they would not wish this provision to change. It is the case that this proposal will involve significant change with the aim of transforming educational provision not just for the current pupils but for future generations. It is recognised that the process of change is difficult, and will cause some anxiety amongst the school communities, however should the proposal be approved then work will begin on ensuring that pupils, parents/carers and staff are supported through the process. In previous school reorganisation proposals where schools have merged, much work has been done following the appointment of the new Headteacher to ensure that the different school communities have been brought together, long before the new school has opened, through activities such as joint events for pupils (including sports days, school trips, year group visits etc.), shared INSET days for staff and parental meetings and events, in an effort to ease the transition for all.
The full response from Estyn is included in the Consultation Report, however it can be considered that Estyn’s response to the proposal is favourable. Estyn were provided with a copy of the Statutory Notice, but no objection has been received or any further response following publication.
Estyn’s response in respect of the proposed new school did not suggest any likely adverse impact against the following:
- standards and progress overall, of specific groups and in skills;
- wellbeing and attitudes to learning;
- teaching and learning experiences (quality of teaching, the breadth, balance and appropriateness of the curriculum, and the provision of skills;
- care support and guidance (tracking, monitoring and the provision of learning support, personal development and safeguarding); and
- leadership and management (quality and effectiveness of leaders and managers, self-evaluation processes and improvement planning, professional learning, and use of resources)