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Follow up to 30th April announcement regarding change in leadership

12 May 2021
Follow up to 30th April announcement regarding change in leadership

Dear parents,

I trust you are all well. Following Pauline’s update on 30th April, I have received a number of emails in response to the planned change in leadership from September 2021 and I firstly wanted to thank you all for your feedback and sharing your concerns with me.

It has been fantastic to see the support and loyalty you have demonstrated towards Pauline.

You should know that the decision to restructure the school's senior leadership was not a decision we made lightly. Pauline was offered the opportunity to apply for the new role but approached the White Horse Federation and asked for voluntary redundancy instead. This meant a decision was required regarding the future leadership of the school. Given the importance of this decision, we consulted with the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education about the situation and to gain their input with the process.

The White Horse Federation’s priority has always been to preserve the future of our schools and promote their achievements so they are the preferred choice for the local community.

Unfortunately, many of you will be aware that pupil numbers have been on a steady decline with this year’s Reception intake expected to be approximately 50% down on capacity. Currently, eight pupils have registered to join the school in Reception from September. This decline in pupil numbers is a trend we have seen in recent years and we expect to see continue over the next five years given publicly available data on declining birth rates.

This means over the course of the next three years the school will lose a total of £200K.

Since the school joined The White Horse Federation in August 2018, the school has been able to maintain the current leadership and class structure through the support provided by the Federation.

As a result of the decline in pupil numbers, from September 2021, the school expects to have only 83 pupils on roll against a capacity of 105. Therefore, from September, the school will operate with three classes. Your child’s class and teacher for the next academic year will be announced in term 6.

Our commitment to St Mary's means that we will continue to provide the financial and operational support where we can as has been the case since the school joined the Federation.

Upon joining the Federation in August 2018, the school was Requiring Improvement (as classified by Ofsted). The significant support the Trust provided to Pauline and the school has resulted in improved standards and a broad curriculum being delivered to pupils. If the school was inspected by Ofsted in the near future, I would now expect the school to receive a Good outcome.

St George’s in Semington was in a similar situation four years ago. Unable to achieve financial stability, this also affected its academic performance. This is not an uncommon situation for small rural schools as recently outlined in a report from the Department for Education. With support initially from Seend Primary C of E Primary School and then TWHF, an improved leadership model was implemented. This gave the school and staff access to experienced and high achieving senior leaders, something that would not have been possible in a standalone school. As a result of this plan, St George’s achieved:

  • Increased pupil admissions.
  • Improved academic performance.
  • Is expected to move from an Inadequate to Good Ofsted rating at its next inspection.

As the Executive Director for Primary Education and as a parent of two children and education professional of 26 years, I hear your reservations but I give my commitment to continually improving the school and supporting pupils to achieve their full potential at the school. I promise to uphold the values of our core purpose to support the staff and families of St Mary’s and I truly believe that the plan we are implementing, which will be led by Candida Hutchinson, will allow the school to remain open for many years to come. This plan will be more effective if it has your support so we can move forward together and focus on progress.

I hope you will join me in supporting both Pauline and Candida in the coming months to ensure the smooth transition of leadership and supporting the future development of our school.

Yours sincerely

Simon Cowley

Executive Director of Primary Education

Your Questions Answered

We have received a number of questions from parents regarding the change in leadership from September 2021. To provide further clarity on what this will look like, please see below. We will provide further updates as and when available.

What will the leadership model at St Mary’s from September 2021?

  • Candida Hutchinson will be the school principal.

  • Mr Aaron Laws has been appointed as the Assistant Principal.

  • Together, Candida and Aaron will form the senior leadership team for the school.

Seend and St Georges will each have an Assistant Principal who will support Candida in leading and managing the schools, as well as sharing ideas and best practice.

How will the new leadership model for the school work?

  • The Assistant Principal (Mr. Aaron Laws) will be on-site full time. He will support Candida in the day-to-day running of the school. This includes meeting and greeting pupils, whole school assemblies, and working with other teachers to deliver high quality lessons. Mr Laws will also have a teaching commitment.
  • Candida will support each school equally as well as prioritising time at a particular school, if required.
  • The three schools will work closely together to share curriculum ideas and teaching methods; each school will then take a bespoke approach to meet the needs of their pupils.
  • Parents will be able to contact Candida via the normal school communication methods.
  • Candida will be held to account by me, the Executive Director for Primary Education.

What will the transition to the new leadership model look like?

  • During the remainder of this academic year, Candida will work with Pauline to better understand the strengths, challenges, and areas for development of the school.
  • Candida will work with Pauline to ensure the new Reception pupils are supported in their transition to school.
  • In term 6, Candida will arrange meetings with parents to introduce herself formally and work with parents to better understand the individual needs of each pupil.
  • In September, Candida will arrange several parent meetings to communicate her vision and intent for the school.

For more information on Candida’s outstanding portfolio of achievements, you can learn more here.

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