Proposal to amalgamate Alvanley Primary School and Manley Village School

Notice is given by Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council (the Council), 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE in accordance with section 15 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and The School Organisation (Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools) Regulations 2013 that the Council intends to discontinue Manley Village School, Manley Road, Manley, Frodsham, Cheshire, WA6 9DU, from 01 September 2021; and of a related proposal, given in accordance with section 19(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and The School Organisation (Prescribed Alterations to Maintained Schools) (England) Regulations 2013, that the Council intends to make a prescribed alteration to expand Alvanley Primary School, Manley Road, Alvanley, Frodsham, Cheshire, WA6 9DD on to an additional site, that currently occupied by Manley Village School, from 01 September 2021.​

Local Authority contact details

Carolyn Davis, Senior Manager, Education Infrastructure. (Nicholas House 3), 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE​.​

The Proposal and proposed date for implementation

It is proposed to amalgamate the two schools through the discontinuation (closure) of Manley Village School (Manley VS) and the related proposal to expand Alvanley Primary School (Alvanley PS) on to an additional (Manley VS) site, both proposals to take effect from 01 September 2021. ​

The reason for the proposals

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 the Manley VS site and Key Stage Two (Junior) children being taught on the Alvanley PS 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 Manley VS site is considered the most appropriate for younger children on account of its outdoor play facilities and its co-location with the local pre-school group. 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.

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Pupil numbers and admissions

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 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).

Displacement of pupils

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If the proposal is approved all pupils on the roll of Manley VS will automatically transfer to the Alvanley PS roll on 01 September 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.

Governance and administration

The current federated governing body will become the governing body of the amalgamated school. The governing body will potentially review its articles of governance to ensure the amalgamated school continues to reflect the identity of the two communities it serves.​

Impact on the community

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

Balance of denominational provision

The related proposals will have no impact upon denominational provision in the local area.​

Legal presumption against the closure of a rural school

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.

Statement on the Legal Presumption against the Closure of a Rural School

This statement outlines the consideration the local authority has given to the 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 created significant challenges to sustaining quality whilst operating within balanced budgets. The governing body have instigated ad hoc measures of teaching joint year groups (‘federation classes’) 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 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.

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 recent 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.

The two schools are 1.4 miles apart along a country road. Based upon the current pupil population the schools have calculated the proposed arrangement will lead to a net increase of 12 return journeys (2.8 miles return distance) at either end of the school day. This is without consideration of whether any of these additional journeys would have occurred if the schools were to continue to operate ‘federation’ classes without amalgamating. Whilst any increase in travel to school mileage is undesirable this proposal is designed to enhance the sustainability of education at both school sites and remove the risk of a form of closure that creates greater travel distances for displaced pupils. Coronavirus regulations currently mean the schools cannot mitigate this additional travel by promoting car-sharing arrangements between households or beyond a support bubble.The Governing Body will continue to explore sustainable travel arrangements between the two school sites to mitigate the impact of the proposed split site arrangement.

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

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.​

Implementation and any proposed stages for implementation

If approved by the decision-maker without modification of the proposal (and subject to there being no appeal by Chester or Shrewsbury Dioceses to the Schools Adjudicator) the Council wishes to implement the proposal from 01 September 2021.​

The procedure for responses: support; objections and comments

A public notice is on the Council's website until midnight 24 March 2021

A public notice announcing the start of a period of public representations is to be published in the Chester and District Standard on 25 February 2021.

Within four weeks from the date of publication, any person may send in a response supporting, objecting or commenting on the proposal:

The final date for receipt of representations is midnight 24 March 2021.

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