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Dear Clare - complicated question

Discussion in 'Governors' started by mystery10, Dec 8, 2011.

  1. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    At my children's school (voluntary aided) they have started admitting more children per year than they did when my first child started at the school. They have mixed age classes.
    As a consequence in 2013-14 when my youngest is in year 3 he would be in a class of 40 if they carry on mixing the classes in the same way that they do now.
    We have asked several times what their plans are to accommodate a class of that size. None of the classrooms are big enough. The school is considering extending but it is in a conservation area, on a small plot, future capital funding is not clear etc etc so it is unlikely that the school would have an extra classroom by 2013-14. They say themselves that they do not know if they will ever have the kind of extension required.
    We have asked the chair of governors several times over the last year what the plan is for 2013-14, and the answer back is very unclear. The latest response says that if the pupil numbers are still the same in 2013-14 they would split the classes slightly differently so that there is not a class of 40. This sounds fine in principle but the method they have shown would require one more classroom than they currently have. So in all probability they would not be able to implement this plan. The only way they could do this (and they have never said this in any letter) would be to use the school hall as a classroom. It is the only "spare" space in the school and is currently used for assemblies, school play rehearsals, group music lessons, piano lessons, one to one teaching, small groups etc etc.
    It wouldn't be the end of the world if they used the hall but it would be a shame when there is another possible method so far as we can see. Above all we want to know that there definitely will not be a class of 40, and how the staffing will work if the split it e.g. will the children be with a fully qualified teacher only part of the day etc etc?
    Are we entitled to answers or do we have to wait until the first day of 2013-14 to see what they are doing?
     
  2. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    At my children's school (voluntary aided) they have started admitting more children per year than they did when my first child started at the school. They have mixed age classes.
    As a consequence in 2013-14 when my youngest is in year 3 he would be in a class of 40 if they carry on mixing the classes in the same way that they do now.
    We have asked several times what their plans are to accommodate a class of that size. None of the classrooms are big enough. The school is considering extending but it is in a conservation area, on a small plot, future capital funding is not clear etc etc so it is unlikely that the school would have an extra classroom by 2013-14. They say themselves that they do not know if they will ever have the kind of extension required.
    We have asked the chair of governors several times over the last year what the plan is for 2013-14, and the answer back is very unclear. The latest response says that if the pupil numbers are still the same in 2013-14 they would split the classes slightly differently so that there is not a class of 40. This sounds fine in principle but the method they have shown would require one more classroom than they currently have. So in all probability they would not be able to implement this plan. The only way they could do this (and they have never said this in any letter) would be to use the school hall as a classroom. It is the only "spare" space in the school and is currently used for assemblies, school play rehearsals, group music lessons, piano lessons, one to one teaching, small groups etc etc.
    It wouldn't be the end of the world if they used the hall but it would be a shame when there is another possible method so far as we can see. Above all we want to know that there definitely will not be a class of 40, and how the staffing will work if the split it e.g. will the children be with a fully qualified teacher only part of the day etc etc?
    Are we entitled to answers or do we have to wait until the first day of 2013-14 to see what they are doing?
     
  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    mystery10, are you a governor at this school? Which category?
     
  4. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    No I'm not, why do you wonder that? If I was I might hopefully understand what they were thinking and know if there was a problem or not. All I can see as a parent doing a bit of simple addition is that a class of 40 is looming and there is no plan for them all to be able to sit down simultaneously!! And my child will be in that class.
     
  5. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    Because I was trying to understand why it is a question about school governance.
     
  6. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Ah Ok so you think it's something the head should be answering then? Maybe that would ordinarily be the case, but presumably in most schools with a standard admissions number of 15 per year, and two year groups combining to a class of 30, a class rise up to 40 would only occur if the school had been forced to do this by the local authority, or if an appeals panel had allowed a huge number of appeals at some point?
    However, I don't think this is the case in this instance. As a VA school the governors are the admissions authority aren't they? They have chosen to increase the intake, and take more children in over standard numbers higher up the school. This is what has resulted in the class of 40 my child would be in two school years from now. At the same time some sub-committee of governors or other is discussing how to manage the school expansion. At one point they had been hoping for an extension but it seems as though this is unlikely now for various different reasons.
    Surely if the chair had thought it wasn't anything to do with the governors he would have referred us back to the head rather than saying it's something the governors have been discussing for a long time now but it's difficult to say what will happen because of future budget uncertainties. Thing is there are lots of certainties as well - unless a lot of children leave there will be a very large class that can't sit down in two years' time. And if they can't throw up an extension very fast they will have the same number of classroomsin the future as they have now, and classrooms don't get bigger.
    I'm just a parent, and I don't really care where the answer comes from, but I would just like to know what the plan is to accommodate and teach a class of 40 in two years' time if the school has not extended and not enough children have left to allow them all to sit down at once!!
    So I am wanting to know if I have a right to know this or not?

     
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    No, you don't have right to know, although it's certainly good practice for governors to maintain good communications with parents and let them know what's happening. But if they don't know the answer themselves yet they won't be able to tell you at this stage. Why don't you stand as a Parent Governor or offer to join them as an Associate Member and become one of the people who are solving the issue rather than stand on the outside telling them how many problems you can see? How's that helping anyone?

    It may well be that taking in pupils over PAN is the only way, as the GB sees it, to stop the school folding altogether. What's your solution to that part of the problem?
     
  8. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    If that is the reason they have taken in extra that's good, and that would explain why there isn't a plan to see it through if it was done out of desperate measures. Without going in to too much detail I don't think that is the case. And the finances look fine.
    But there are other ways of mixing the year groups which wouldn't result in a class of 40 in two years time. I'm sorry that you so quickly jump to the conclusion that we stand on the sidelines and just spot problems.
    I don't quite follow your point about maybe not knowing the answer themselves. If you take the assumption of current numbers, and current number of classrooms, there are not that many options. So either it is that none of the options would work, or one of them will work but they think it's not a popular one? There is one option we think would work, which we have suggested as a possiblity, but they came back with another more desirable looking option which includes an extra classroom which they don't have.
    There are no vacancies for parent governors so far as I am aware. Also, I'm not sure that the current parent governors are involved in solving this problem. I think it's done by a subcommittee they are not part of. What is an associate member?

    Is your bark worse than your bite? It would seem reasonable to me to wonder what will be done with a class of 40 when none of the classrooms are big enough to seat 40. Surely the governors would see that parents would be wondering, even if they were in an awkward position for some reason or other?

    Going back to your original question, are you saying that this is to do with governance or not?

     
  9. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    I can see now how it's a governance question, governors are responsible for the strategic direction of the school. It sounds to me though that they are fully aware of the issues and are developing their plans, and no you don't have a right to know exactly every thought that is going through their mind but clealry they will have to communicate any changes eventually. It's not that what they are doing is secret - it isn't - more that governors, like any organisation - can't be forever expalining exactly what it's doing at this moment when it hasn't finalised its thinking. Hence my suggestion that you offer to join the GB. I can't judge whether they are communicationg sufficiently at the moment, nor whether they are working on a viable plan.
     
  10. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    I really didn't know that one could just offer to be on a governing body. I think they would probably say no, in which case you really feel we have to wait until much closer to the time to know if it is going to work?
    Presumably, we will just have to rely on the fact that they can organise the classes differently from the way they are proposing if they don't get an extra classroom. There is a method which would fit all the children into the current classrooms which we did ask about, but it was ignored. Maybe they will use this at the last minute if necessary?
     
  11. Have you asked to see the minutes of the Govs meetings for the last few terms m10? You are entitled to see them I believe and then you could at least see whether this has been discussed. Just a thought!
     
  12. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    It is a logical suggestion crumblebucket. I've thought long and hard about doing so, but because they are clearly so cagey about providing any information whatsoever (e.g. we didn't get the papers for the last meeting which we had requested alongside the minutes) I'm not wanting to upset the applecart. It's a small place.
    Does Clare still respond to these Governor queries do you know please?
     
  13. Mystery10, you - and, indeed, anyone, whether a member of the school or not - have the statutory right to see minutes AND paperwork presented at governors' meetings, unless deemed confidential (normally about a specific person). I'm tapping this out on my phone so can't quote chapter & verse on the Regs; I'll try to do so tomorrow. I suggest you write to the chair and/or clerk to Govs & point out in a friendly way that you've received the minutes but not the paperwork, and assume that it's to follow shortly.

    If you don't want to rock the boat I'm happy to request it from them & send it on to you. Accountability & openness is very important to me!
     
  14. Firstly apologies for the delay in the NGA responding, your query appears to have slipped through the net.
    I understand your concerns about class size and lack of clarity around teaching space in the school, but it may quite simply be that the governing body and headteacher are not in a position to be more specific at this stage. Although the local authority should be able to tell the school whether the total number of primary age pupils in the area is likely to remain high over the next few years, the school will not know for certain how many pupils will be admitted into reception classes until the admission round in each year - parents are notified of places in March before admission takes place in September. How classes are accommodated within the school will almost certainly depend on how many children the school admit and it may be that the chair of governors cannot be more specific until those numbers are known.
    It appears that the chair of governors has said that if numbers remain high classes will be reorganised so that there is not a class of 40 and I think at this stage you have to take that at face value. As regards who can teach classes, there are rules about the use of non-qualified teachers.
    Stephen Adamson
     
  15. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    Because they don't know.
    often schools have a range of possible solutions to scenarios which might happen, but until they do actually happen theres no point sharing a whole range of "what ifs" as this might cause confusion which can lead to unnecessary panic amongst parents. It may be that there are other issues at play which you may be totally unaware of. Rest assured the head and governors will deal with class sizes and arrangements when they know how many pupils there will be.
     
  16. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Thanks Stephen. I don't think the problem has anything to do with how many children they admit in reception this year or next year though. Unless they admit zero children into reception this year or next year they are going to have a numbers problem higher up the school and the solution that they have written to all parents with involves an extra classroom which they just don't have, and no easy solution to obtaining one. Also the letter was wrong in terms of the academic year in which it identified the problem as first arising. Yes I could take it all at facevalue Curlygirly and just wait until the first day of term of the problem academic year; it would be very reassuring to do so, but applying my brain to it I just can't see how it is going to work.
     
  17. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    No one is suggesting waiting until the first day of term. Unless you're expecting an influx of pupils to arrive after half term, youre worrying at least 7 months before the actual date this might happen.
    The school will know more about how many pupils they will have in May. It would be reasonable to suggest you wait until June for them to give you more information. Unless you want the governors to give you lots of information which might turn out to be totally useless when they do find out the numbers?
     
  18. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    Mystery10 Despite what Admin Princess says about yours rights to minutes quoting section 13, and even with FOI act requests which 99% of schools will comply with some schools can still refuse and do refuse even the DoE can do nothing unless they themselves take legal action and I have never heard of them doing so. So if a school digs their heels in it is possible to prevent you from seeing them even with an Information Commission Office demand and if they give in to the ICO then they can simply put anything they don't want you to see in part two or part B confidential minutes. There still seems to be ample time to see what plans your GB and LA have for your school.
     
  19. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Ah thanks everyone for the reassurances. It's not quite as you think as this has nothing to do with future numbers of children coming into the school but to do with the sizes of year groups which will be merged higher up the school. The bulging numbers are already in the school and these year groups are being added to from time to time with in-year admissions. The only uncertainty is over numbers that might leave the school - but they are unlikely to lose 30% of the pupils in hte middle years next year which is what it would take to not have an accommodation problem. And although it seems a long time to when the "crunch" will happen, it's quite close in terms of planning permission, building timescales etc as there are quite tight planning controls in this particular location. As it's VA, I don't think the LA has much to do with it does it?
     
  20. anon2799

    anon2799 New commenter

    If its to do with numbers of children who are already in school the chances are hey will restructure classes. I presume from your posts that there are mixed year groups, I would imagine they will alter the mix to make class sizes more manageable. When I worked in a small school we varied the classes according to year group size - one year I taught "infants" part time nursery, reception, year 1 and year 2, the head taught y3,4,5 and 6 The following year there were fewer nursery children so
    I taught nursery- y3 and the head taught y4-6. One year I remember splitting a particularly large (for that school) year 3 so I had half of them with the infants and the head had the other half with the juniors.
     

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