Portslade national teaching school urges council not to cut pupil numbers

Posted On 18 Sep 2017 at 7:19 am

A Portslade school is urging councillors not to cut pupil numbers against the wishes of the head and governors.

Benfield Primary School said that the proposed cut would mean turning away children whose parents wanted to send them there.

It could also put at risk Benfield’s newly won status as one of the few teaching schools in the area.

An amended proposal could buy time for Benfield to put together a teaching schools alliance similar to some local secondary schools.

Councillors are due to reach a decision when the Children, Young People and Skills Committee meets at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Monday 18 September).

Officials have proposed reducing the size of Benfield’s intake from two forms of entry – or 60 pupils – to a one form entry school – or just 30 pupils a year.

The school said: “The need to reduce the PAN (Published Admission Number) is not a statutory obligation. The city council is required only to demonstrate that they are managing the numbers effectively.

“The proposal that councillors are asked to support is to reduce numbers in five primary schools, Benfield being one.

“The total number of places taken out of the system by this proposal is 150 places and Benfield school is asking that councillors accept the schools that agree to the reduction – some 120 places – and leave Benfield as a two form entry school.

“Officers ignored the request from Benfield Primary School to remove the school from the list of five to allow appropriate time and flexibility for the teaching school to develop an alliance of schools.

“The leadership and governors have petitioned councillors to demonstrate their support for the newly designated Teaching School and to keep it as a two-form entry school.”

Benfield head Helen Horsley, the professional lead for the teaching school, said: “We know we are a very good school providing high-quality learning for all our children.

“Benfield school has been in the forefront of city-wide leadership development and supporting trainee teachers.

“The teaching school will train and develop high quality teachers, provide leadership development at a national level and quality support for schools, including governance.

“Our bid to be a National Teaching School had to demonstrate very clearly our capacity to support and develop schools across the city and this was evidenced and planned as a two form entry school.”

Chair of governors Jenny Barnard-Langston said: “A reduction in our PAN will severely limit the flexibility of our National Teaching School capacity to train and develop teachers and leaders across the city, contribute to succession planning and school to school support – size matters.”

In January 2013, Benfield was placed in special measures. A head of school, executive and chair of governors were drafted in to focus on school improvement.

As a result of the hard work Benfield came out of special measures in record time and, in April 2016, was judged by Ofsted to be a good school.

The school said: “We have possibly the best outcomes in terms of progress out of all the primary schools in Portslade.

“Benfield Primary School has modelled strategic leadership and the development of high-quality teaching and learning.

“The School has led the Portslade cluster of schools and contributed to school improvement across the city through the work of our senior leaders and governors.

“Governors supported the leadership in an application to become a National Teaching School to enable the city’s schools to benefit from the training and development funding that comes with the designation.

“Benfield Primary School was successful in their application and in June were designated a National Teaching School by the DfE.

“Of approximately 24,000 schools in England, only 750 are National Teaching Schools and Brighton and Hove can boast of two – one in the primary sector and one in the secondary sector.

“Benfield Primary School believe wholeheartedly in the collaboration of schools and in school to school support, the school formally federated with Hangleton Primary School and the governance oversight of both schools is through one board of governors.

“We are aware of the fluctuating numbers in primary schools and this is an issue which has affected the Portslade schools for many years due to the high mobility in the area and the City Council taking the decision to expand schools in our area and more particularly in Hove.

“Last year Benfield saw first choices increased and we believe that trend may well continue as parents and carers could see being part of a National Teaching School community as a positive choice for their children.

“The decision for a PAN reduction will result in us becoming an oversubscribed school which will not be helpful for our local community.

“We are not carrying a deficit budget, on the contrary we have a budget which is robustly planned showing no deficit over the next few years, even without our teaching school funding. Therefore, as a school, we do not need to be supported by extra public money.”

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