Alvanley Primary School and Manley Village School amalgamation consultation

Closing date: 8 November 2020

Cheshire West and Chester Council (the Local Authority) is proposing the amalgamation of Alvanley Primary School, Manley Road, Alvanley, WA6 9DD and Manley Village School, Manley Road, Manley, WA6 9DU.

It is proposed this amalgamation is achieved through the related proposals to discontinue (close) Manley Village School and a related proposal to establish teaching across both school sites from Alvanley Primary School.

Please note:

We welcome views from all sections of the community and would encourage everyone to take part in this consultation. Note that the Council has a responsibility to make sure that its services are available to all, regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, religion or belief or sexual identity. Comments that are offensive to particular groups or considered inappropriate under the Equality Act 2010 will not be considered or published as part of this consultation.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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1. Why we are proposing the amalgamation of these schools?

In response to the challenge of sustaining small rural schools in the face of falling demand for places these two schools were federated under a combined headship and a single governing body in 2006. Despite amalgamating budgets and introducing the teaching of a cohort of children drawn from both schools on a single site the governing body has identified that in future years it will be unable to meet its responsibility to operate the two schools within the available budget. Following discussion with the Local Authority’s finance officers the governing body has concluded that the most efficient way of deploying its resources would be to combine the teaching of all age groups; with Foundation (Reception) and Key Stage One (Infant) children being taught on one site and Key Stage Two (Junior) children being taught on the other site. Further savings could be made if the two schools were to be combined on account of there no longer being duplicated purchasing of support services.

The current arrangement of grouping of cohorts drawn from both schools does not allow parents to make decisions based upon certainty about how and where their children will be educated and can cause confusion in the school admission process. An amalgamated school would provide transparency and certainty about future arrangement of teaching and learning and would remove potential confusion and ambiguity from the admissions process as a combined school will have a single catchment area.

The governing body and the Local Authority have concluded that this proposal offers the best prospect for maintaining the delivery of high-quality primary education in the villages of Manley and Alvanley.

2. Why is this described as an amalgamation when one school will be discontinued and the other stays open?

Statutory guidance states that there are two ways to amalgamate two existing maintained schools, in this instance the Local Authority could:

  • Publish a proposal to close both schools and the Local Authority (or a free school provider) could publish a proposal to open a new school.
  • Publish a proposal to close one school and establish split-site teaching from the remaining school.

The governing body remains committed to its responsibility to provide locally led primary education to local children and would consequently not support an option that potentially led to an unknown provider making that provision; consequently, the second route to amalgamation is the one it wishes to consider. The proposal for Alvanley Primary School (PS) to be the school that retains its administrative identity reflects relative parental preference for this school whilst enabling education to continue at Manley Village School (VS).

3. When is it proposed to implement the amalgamation?

If the proposal is approved, it is anticipated the amalgamation would take effect from 01 April 2021. From this time all activity would be carried out under the governance of Alvanley PS. It is proposed that the articles of governance be changed to enable a change of name to Alvanley and Manley Primary School. It is not proposed that the full reorganisation of teaching and learning will take place until September 2021.​

4. Will the admissions arrangements change?

Manley VS currently has a planned admission number of 9 pupils per cohort, Alvanley PS of 10 pupils per cohort, it is proposed that the amalgamated school would be able to admit 15 pupils into each cohort.

It is proposed that the catchment areas of the two schools be combined. Without seeking exceptional permission from the Office of the School’s Adjudicator this cannot lawfully take place before September 2022.

Children applying for a place after amalgamation has taken place (projected date 01 April 2021) will be allocated places in accordance with the current over-subscription criteria for Alvanley PS (upon successful conclusion of the incorporation of Manley VS catchment into the Alvanley PS catchment children living in either current catchment area will be considered to be living in the catchment of Alvanley PS).

5. Will any pupils be displaced by the proposed amalgamation?

If the proposal is approved all pupils on the roll of Manley VS will automatically transfer to the Alvanley and Manley Primary School roll on 01 April 2021.

Pupils who have made application for a place in Reception at either or both schools for September 2021 will be allocated a place based upon their respective preferences for either school. Pupils successfully receiving an offer of a place at Manley VS will automatically be placed on the roll of Alvanley and Manley Primary School in September 2021.

Whilst having a current combined physical capacity for 133 pupils the current combined roll of the two schools is only 100 pupils, it is proposed that the amalgamated school will be organised to have the capacity to admit 105 pupils. The proposed organisation of teaching and learning would however enable up to 124 pupils to potentially be admitted.

6. How will this impact on the community?

The community will continue to enjoy potential use of both schools’ buildings and playing fields.​

7. Is there a legal presumption against the closure of rural schools?

Yes, where proposals relate to the discontinuance (closure) of rural school, as identified by the Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order, a statement must be made setting out evidence that careful consideration has been given to a number of factors. These factors and that consideration are set out in the statement below.

Statement on the presumption against closure of a rural school.

This statement outlines the consideration the local authority has given to the following issues that must be addressed when making a proposal to close a rural school as defined by the Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order.

Closure of Manley Village School was initially considered by Cheshire County Council in 2006 when it was determined that the schools should instead federate under a single headship and governing body. This arrangement has proved hard to manage creating significant challenges to sustaining quality whilst operating within balanced budgets. The governing body have instigated ad hoc measures of teaching joint year groups to address these issues but have now concluded that future budgetary challenges can only be met by moving to a full amalgamation of the two schools. The Local Authority agrees with this financial analysis. The current governing body has been successful in addressing quality issues raised by Ofsted inspection and do not consider there is a need to close both schools and create a new free school to address the remaining challenges. Manley Village School has already used its extended powers to host a pre-school on its site to help secure the future intake of pupils into reception across the two schools.

The two schools are 1.4 miles apart along a country road. The Governing Body will continue to promote sustainable travel arrangements between the two school sites to mitigate the likely impact of a split site school.

The two schools proposed for amalgamation are both very small, Manley Village School has a planned admission of 9 pupils into each year group, Alvanley Primary School has a planned admission of 10 pupils into each year group. The schools have been unable to independently staff for the full delivery of the curriculum for all year groups and have consequently had to establish grouping arrangements whereby particular year groups from both schools have been combined on a single site. The governing body believe that amalgamation will enable this to be accomplished in a planned and more comprehensive manner with a more consistent pupil to teacher ratio being maintained across the school. The more efficient use of resources will allow a greater proportion of available resource to be deployed in support of effective curriculum delivery.

The amalgamation is seen as a means of sustaining both school sites as resources that can potentially be enjoyed by the community. It is not envisaged that the proposal will lead to any loss of community amenity.

It is proposed that amalgamation of the schools will allow for a cohort of 15 pupils to be admitted to each year group; as this exceeds the current combined intake of pupils into the schools it is anticipated that this small reduction in local primary school capacity will have minimal impact on the pressure for places at neighbouring schools.

8. Will there be an impact upon travel arrangements?

The two schools are located on the same side of a country road 1.4 miles apart. The Governing Body will continue to promote sustainable travel arrangements between the two school sites to mitigate the likely impact of a split site school. This will include the staggering of start and finish times at the two school sites.​

9. The consultation process - indicative timeline

  • 5 October 2020 - Commencement of the 'pre-publication' phase of consultation.
  • 13 October 2020 - 15 October 2020 20 October 2020 - 22 October 2020 - Local Authority representatives will be available by appointment for an audio/video 'face-to-face' consultation with parents, pupils and other stakeholders.
  • 8 November 2020 - Close of the 'pre-publication' phase of consultation.
  • December 2020 - Director of Education and Inclusion determines whether the proposal should proceed to decision-making either in its current form or in an amended form in response to feedback received to the consultation process.
  • January 2021 - Publication of Notice and commencement of four-week period of public Representations.
  • February 2021 - Close of period of Notice and Representation
  • March 2021 - Decision made by Cabinet Member for Children and Young People
  • March 2021 - Expiry of period of potential call-in of Cabinet Member decision
  • 1 April 2021 - Amalgamation of the two schools takes effect.
  • 1 September 2021 - Full implementation of integrated teaching and learning across both sites.
  • 1 September 2022 - Earliest date revised admission arrangements can be implemented (without seeking approval of Schools Adjudicator).

10. How can I give my views?

There are several ways to give us your views on this proposal:

  • Complete the online survey
  • Email: schoolplanningandpolicy@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk​. You are also invited to book an online face-to-face meeting with a representative of the Council (no later than 12 October 2020). Such meetings may be accessed from a computer or by dialling in from a phone, we will send full details to you. Please ensure that you provide us with your phone number so that we can contact you to arrange.  If you are unable to access a meeting in this way it may be possible to arrange access to a meeting from a school-based computer.

11. What happens next?

This consultation stage closes on midnight 8 November 2020. A report summarising the responses received during the consultation period will be submitted to the Director of Education and Inclusion who will then decide whether to proceed with the related proposals, either in the current form or in an amended form in response to feedback received during consultation. If a decision is made to take forward the related proposals, then this will be published as a statutory proposal in the form of a public notice. The public notice would be published in a local newspaper. For a period of four weeks following the publication date anyone can comment on the proposals. Having considered all responses to the notice and the pre-publication consultation, the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People will then take a final decision whether to proceed with the related proposals.​

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