Register free school meals
We are urging small schools to register all pupils claiming free school meals in an attempt to secure the now £900 pupil premium for such children. We report a Lincolnshire situation where upwards of £3.6m is not being claimed. We recognise rural family reluctance to claim and are asking Government to follow Ofsted example and pay according to entitlement rather than take-up.
Umbrella academy powers
NASS continues to express concern about the powers of umbrella academies to threaten the viability of their constituent schools.
School Closure guidance
We are also urging the DfE not to delay issuing their planned new guidance on procedures for closing schools, procedures we wish to see applying to all schools not just those still within the Local Authority remit. We have been contacted by the senior officer leading the issue of new guidance, an attempt at simplicity of organisational prescription, and invited to comment. We shall do so. The proposed guidance is currently out to consultation. The section dealing with rural school closures at first glance seems fair but we wish to see aspects tightened in terms of Council accountability where fair procedure is not followed - as currently happens on most occasions.
Ombudsman procedures and principles
In relation to long experience, and a further new case, we are asking the relevant Parliamentary Select Committee for an investigation of the way the Local Government Ombudsman network treats complaints using principles and attitudes that are themselves as unfair as those one is complaining about on the part of Local Authorities. We are currently engaged under their normal rules in the case of Gembling's school closure by East Riding.
Urban Village Schools
We continue to argue a case for small schools to be the basis of provision, albeit networked under single governance and leadership, in urban areas, particularly at a time when wilful ignoring of rising birth-rate in the preceding decade is bringing massive demand for pupil places and provision largely by bolted-on expansion of existing schools- creating unacceptably high roll numbers.
Our campaign includes arguing for the entire economics of school provision to be more thoroughly analysed for its longer-term truths. We believe that the commitment to large scale long-term costs more and is less effective. The belief in buildings, tests, inspections and other system factors is too dominant.
We have met National Society leaders in a renewed attempt to secure some agreed fundamental guidance asserting the facts about small schools for individual diocesan education boards to consider when proposing closures or responding to Local Authority closures as we find the actual practice at times almost as chalk and cheese, often just across a county border.
We have the same concerns regarding diocesan academy clusters and shall be interested in how these develop and are managed. We hope early assurances that the aim is to build long-term support but leave schools fully autonomous will be delivered.