Ebrington Closure 8

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One headteacher interviewed, whose school has a Planned Admission Number (PAN) of 30 and a total school capacity of 210 pupils, stated he was unable to consider single-year groups because each year intake varies and equality of class size is more important for promoting effective learning. The evidence shows that this is common for schools of this size. This indicates that even if St James’ is extended to accommodate 210 pupils, it will not necessarily be able to provide the Headteacher’s desired single-year classes throughout the school.

A headteacher summed up the views of other interviewees on the matter of single-year classes and the new National Curriculum. He stated:
.... it is totally irrelevant and has nothing to do with the new National Curriculum. Even in single-year group classes the range of pupils’ educational needs is always very wide. A good teacher plans to take account for these wide variations. [Emphasis added] (Headteacher, 2016)

Further, a headteacher expressed the view that the quality of support for schools in preparing them for the changes resulting from the new National Curriculum has been inconsistent and of variable value. This has resulted in some schools and teachers misunderstanding the new requirements.
The Review Team has endeavoured to find evidence that supports the assertions of the Headteacher and the Governing Body that the introduction of the new National Curriculum has brought added challenges to smaller schools with mixed-year classes and that smaller peer groups at Ebrington are detrimental to the pupils’ overall preparedness to be ‘Secondary Ready’.

The Review Team undertook a focused analysis of primary schools nationally to shed light on these issues. The main sources of data are DfE, OFSTED, Local Authorities, professional research papers and interviews.
By way of example, a brief summary of three such reviews undertaken by the Team is set out below. The analyses used the most current published data available.
One review scrutinised data about small schools in Gloucestershire. This was to provide the Team with an insight into the educational effectiveness of these two and three class schools with mixed-year groups.

The summary findings based on the data indicate that:
i. A significant percentage of primary schools in Gloucestershire do not have the appropriate numbers on roll, consistently year-on-year, to be able to offer single-year classes throughout the school;

ii. Thirty-three (33) local authority schools in Gloucestershire have 70 or less pupils on roll, the smallest being in the low twenties. This represents approximately 16 per cent of Gloucestershire LA schools; [These schools are the same size or smaller than Ebrington School]

iii. Thirty-one (31) of these small schools, that is 94 per cent, were judged by OFSTED to be ‘good’ or better;

iv. Six (6) of these good or better schools had previously been judged by OFSTED to be ‘requiring improvement’. In each case a new headteacher was appointed and turned the school around;

v. The data shows there is no correlation between school size and OFSTED judgements. There is no evidence presented by OFSTED or the DfE data that shows the pupils in these small schools in mixed-year classes are underachieving overall or are unable to achieve the ‘Secondary Ready’ aspirations as set out in the new National Curriculum.