Easton Primary School retains ‘good’ Ofsted rating but Suffolk academy trust warns of ‘funding worry’
- Credit: Archant
Rural primary schools are still vital community institutions and need better protection from the government, a Suffolk academy trust boss has said.
Cheryl Singleton, chief executive of Avocet Academy Trust, which runs Aldeburgh, Easton, Leiston, and Wickham Market primary schools, also said controversial levels of funding is a “worry” but insisted forming academy trusts saves on costs.
She was speaking after Easton Primary School retained its ‘good’ Ofsted rating. The 75-pupil school has achieved a 100% pass rate in Key Stage Two SATs tests for the past two years.
Mrs Singleton said: “Easton is thriving. Like many small primary schools, it relies on children who are out of catchment and parental choice. Some parents really love the idea of a small school, and this school is a huge part of the community.
“But my biggest concern is that there is a failure at central government to recognise that there are a lot of rural schools; that we do exist. They need to recognise many small rural schools serve communities and my concern is that policy seems to be very much about large schools.
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“Schools can be proactive by working together more and looking at financial savings and so on. Are they under threat? I’m hopeful that they’re not. We’re here and we do well.
“The biggest factor affecting school closures is pupil numbers and in rural areas that is always a challenge. Often around here, due to house prices, that’s a challenge. Suffolk is beautiful but families struggle to live around here.”
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Of the 237 Suffolk primary schools which recorded 2016 SATs tests, 28 had 10 or fewer Year 6 students. Seven had five or less.
The government’s revised NFF for schools, designed to distribute school cash more evenly, has been welcomed, but critics argue more money is needed. Heads have been told to tighten their belts.
Mrs Singleton said funding is the “tightest” she has ever seen but joining the trust sustained staff numbers. She said: “Funding is a worry and we need more, absolutely. But we haven’t had to do anything drastic like cut the heating, or clubs or trips. Being part of the academy trust has definitely helped ensure that. It is about best practice, not just teaching and learning, such as one of our IT specialists delivering teacher training across the trust, but financially and administration wise.”