Military families’ schools merger would “improve standards”

Wavell Community Junior School, which is set to be merged with an infant school to drive up standards Picture: Google

A move to amalgamate and expand two schools with 97 per cent of pupils from transient military families has been welcomed as a way of driving up educational standards.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive will on Tuesday consider pressing ahead with the closure of Wavell Community Junior School as a separate entity
and the enlargement and change of age range of Catterick Garrison, Wavell Infant School from April next year.

While the infant school has recently been rated as ‘good’ Ofsted, the move follows the junior school being twice judged by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’, in 2018 and 2021.

A public meeting over the proposal heard strong support for the move, with parents and teachers saying many of the pupils were unsettled due to experiencing multiple transfers and transitions as a consequence of their parents being posted at regular intervals.

An officer’s report to the executive states the successive junior school judgements led the Department for Education (DfE) to use a new intervention measure to drive up school standards, and in March indicated an intention to issue it with a legal instruction leading to the council-maintained school joining a multi-academy trust.

The report states the schools’ governers are satisfied that amalgamation would benefit pupils through a change of age range for the infant school, the technical closure of the junior school and renaming the school as Wavell Community Primary.

The merged school would have a capacity of 420 pupils, where the separate schools have a capacity of just 270.

The report states: “The current Ofsted judgement for the junior school, and the DfE’s powers of intervention attached to it, would no longer be applicable after amalgamation.

“It is considered that learning and progress can be even better if the two schools come together as a single school.

“The expertise of staff currently in the schools could be better targeted across the full age range and across all key stages to raise standards, and the single school would have fully integrated arrangements for assessment of learning, including recording of progress.

“It is considered that an amalgamated school would deliver a smoother transition between key stages and help to ensure that the good progress made by children at Key Stage 1 is maintained and built upon at Key Stage 2.”

The move to improve standards comes despite schools being eligible for up to £335 extra per service family child from the Government in recognition of the specific challenges they face and as part of the commitment to delivering the Armed Forces Covenant.

Education officers said the school’s leaders were working with the council’s school improvement team to address Ofsted’s recommendations.

The council’s Armed Forces Champion and Catterick Garrison councillor Kevin Foster said: “The main benefit that has come out of it is that it will make the transition easier for the children. The teachers are happy, the parents are happy, the governors are happy, there’s nothing to dislike.

“They have all been moved about. Being from a military family myself, there is a lot of disuption.  If they are all unsettled together it works better for them. Strength in numbers is the best way of describing it.”