Lewes Cooperative Learning Partnership

30th September 2013

On Monday 30th September a letter was sent home about the Lewes Cooperative Learning Partnership that South Malling is proposing to join with six other schools. Below is a copy of the letter, you can also follow this link for further details www.priory.e-sussex.sch.uk.


Dear Parents and Carers,

Lewes Cooperative Learning Partnership

We are writing to tell you about a partnership that South Malling is proposing to enter into with six other schools in the Lewes area - Priory, Southover, Western Road, Pells, Iford and Kingston, and Rodmell. This partnership would take the form of a Federation Trust which would allow member schools to co-operate more effectively together.

The background to this proposal is that, as you may be aware, the educational landscape is changing rapidly at present. There is increasing pressure on schools to become academies, and a corresponding weakening of the Local Authority’s ability to support its remaining schools effectively.  We foresee a time in the not too distant future when a school like South Malling could find it difficult to continue its journey of improvement under the current arrangements.  Becoming an academy is an option that we have considered, but our view is that for a school the size of South Malling, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits, with significant financial risks and the possibility of distraction from our core purpose of providing excellent teaching and learning.

Federations present an alternative to the Academy route, allowing schools to co-operate and support each other for the benefit of our children and their learning, while retaining their own independence, ethos and identity.  Within the Lewes area, the option of creating a Federation, initiated by Priory School, has been under consideration and active discussion for a number of months between the Heads and Governing Bodies of all the schools involved. These discussions have led to the point where there is now clarity about what the Federation would involve and its benefits, and all potential member schools are therefore commencing a period of consultation with staff, parents and carers, and other interested parties.

Having considered all the possible options, our Head, Senior Leadership Team, and Governing Body have jointly come to the view that doing nothing is not an option for us, and that joining the proposed Federation of Lewes schools offers us the best way forward as we continue to develop as a school.  We believe that this option would have many benefits for South Malling children, parents and carers and staff. These include:

• Better sharing of good practice between schools leading to higher standards
• A deeper collective pool of expertise leading to a broader and deeper curriculum
• More joined up SEN and Gifted and Talented provision with an integrated approach for Primary to 16+
• Possibility of employing specialist teachers who could be shared between schools
• Economies of scale in relation to negotiation for contracts for services
• More integrated transition from Primary to Secondary
• A strong educational focus across the Lewes area strengthening our local community

The partnership has different implications for its member schools.  For South Malling and the other Church of England schools, there will be no change in our legal status as we are already part of an existing Church foundation which will remain in place.  Our admissions policy will remain unchanged, and South Malling children will continue to have full choice over their secondary schooling and support in their transition from primary to secondary, exactly as they do at present. There will therefore be no change to the way that we are funded, managed or governed, nor to the employment status of any of our members of staff.

All 7 schools involved are now commencing  a period of consultation to gather the views of parents, carers, staff and the wider community.  There will be a public meeting at Priory School at 5pm on Monday October 7th, and a meeting at South Malling at 6pm on Thursday October 10th at which our Head and Governors will present more details about the partnership and its benefits. There will also be an opportunity for parents and carers to ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have. Written feedback on the proposals can also be submitted during the consultation period.  More details will be available on the school website and at the meetings.

Following the consultation process, the schools who remain committed to the partnership would be supported in drawing up the necessary legal arrangements and creating the practical governance structures by the Co-operative Trust, a national charity which exists to support the formation of Federations. The partnership would come into effect in May 2014 if all went according to plan. The accompanying document sets out the nature of the partnership for South Malling and other Church Schools, and gives more details of the process and structure of the Federation Trust.

We appreciate that this is a lot to take in all at once, but actually our view is that for South Malling there is very little ‘downside’ and a huge amount to gain from this partnership. We see this as a positive and exciting opportunity which we as a school are keen to embrace for sound educational reasons which will benefit the school’s long-term future, and also support both primary and secondary education more broadly in Lewes.

We look forward to meeting with you in the school hall at 6pm on Thursday October 10th to outline and discuss these plans further, and to listen to your views.

Yours sincerely,

Joanna O’Donoghue, Headteacher

Alan Velecky, Chair of Governors