Schools merger pushed ahead despite loss of £128k

Wavell Junior School.

A proposal to amalgamate and expand two schools which have 97 per cent of pupils from transient military families will prove a boost to the children, a meeting has heard, despite the move eventually leading to the loss of £128,000 Government funding a year.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive has authorised pressing ahead with the technical closure of Wavell Community Junior School in Catterick Garrison as a separate entity and the enlargement and change of age range of Wavell
Infant School from April next year.

The school, to be known as Wavell Community Primary School, is being created following the junior school being twice rated by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’, in 2018 and 2021.

The judgements led the Department for Education 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.

However, it has emerged the council, schools’ governers and community are satisfied that merging the junior school with the infant school, which has been rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted, would benefit pupils through a change of age range to three to 11, meaning children would no longer have to transition from one school to another aged eight.

The consultation was told many of the schools’ pupils were unsettled due to experiencing multiple transfers and transitions as a consequence of their parents being posted at regular intervals.

Education officers said the Ofsted judgement for the junior school, and the DfE’s powers of intervention attached to it, would no longer be applicable after the merger.

An officer’s report to the meeting stated: “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.”

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

Nevertheless, as school budgets are funded largely by pupil numbers, amalgamating the schools will not lead to an increase in funding.

However, an element of the schools’ funding will eventually fall because the £128,000 lump-sum which is given to both schools annually would end at the close of the financial year that amalgamation takes place.

The following financial year the schools will receive a combined 85 per cent of the two lump-sums, and then just £128,000 after that.

The authority’s executive member for education, Councllor Annabel Wilkinson, told the meeting a public consultation into the proposal had been well supported and that the transition finances would be protected until April 2026.

She added the authority’s school improvement team would be working with the school’s leadership “to address any issues”.

Coun Wilkinson told the meeting: “The school’s are already joined together by a single corridor and the military community welcomes this because it will lose a transition period. The children are having to transition twice within the middle of school and by removing this barrier they will only have to transition once.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, who has previously represented parts of the garrison, described the move as “eminently sensible”.