Suffolk could 'merge' schools

GROUPS of primary schools across Suffolk could merge under the management of one headteacher under new proposals to ease workload.Suffolk County Council is considering a move that could see some schools transformed into a 'federation' of two or three schools under the leadership of a single headteacher.

GROUPS of primary schools across Suffolk could merge under the management of one headteacher under new proposals to ease workload.

Suffolk County Council is considering a move that could see some schools transformed into a 'federation' of two or three schools under the leadership of a single headteacher.

It is thought the idea might help solve difficulties in recruiting headteachers and also ease the administrative pressures facing school leaders.

Under new federation-style schools, a non-teaching headteacher could be appointed to undertake the management duties, including running the budget, for all schools within the group.

Tony Lewis, portfolio holder for children and young people, said the move would benefit smaller schools where headteachers were having to teach most of the week as well as undertake management responsibilities.

"We do have schools where the headteacher teaches about four times a week and that leaves little time for them to carry out all the management duties that come with being a headteacher," he said.

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"Over recent years, it's been more difficult trying to recruit head teachers in small schools and we believe that's because it can be difficult to carry on the teaching and curriculum responsibility with the management responsibility.

"This idea is one of the ways that schools can develop in circumstances where it would be mutually beneficial for them."

A report by the county council states new school federations would share general policies, curriculum planning and professional development and also share access to resources and facilities.

It could also offer a more attractive headteacher salary, the report added.

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National union of Teachers, described the proposals as "panic measures" and said there would be no advantages in such a move.

"It's just trying to balance the books and cover the cracks," he added.

The council report reveals that in 2001-02, 43 primary schools out of 256 in Suffolk had more than 30 surplus places available for children that were not being filled, equivalent to a classroom.

The council is planning to discuss proposals to allow extra rooms which are not being used for teaching to be used by community groups so the number of surplus places are reduced and the school will not be penalised in future in the funding it receives.

Councillors on the executive committee will discuss the report at meeting on Thursday, April 24.

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