Category Archives: West Burton CofE School

West Burton school – Stop the Bussing!

Aysgarth and District Parish Council has again agreed that the bussing of the youngest children from West Burton CofE School to Bainbridge by the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools (BAWB) for lessons must stop.

At its meeting on Thursday February 21 the council welcomed the invitation from BAWB to the West Burton Representative Group to engage with it in a small working party on Tuesday March 19.

Cllr David Pointon, an educational consultant who is a member of the Representative Group, reminded the council that the first request for defederation from BAWB by parents of pupils at West Burton school was made in January 2018.

He added that BAWB had refused defederation and was continuing with bussing the youngest children which was one of the main things that parents were objecting to. “The community is still not satisfied,” he said.

Richmondshire District councillor Yvonne Peacock described as dreadful had been the lack of communication by the BAWB governors. “We’ve had emails but we haven’t had a conversation. To me the governors should have dealings with people, with the parents.”

Another Richmondshire District councillor, Caroline Thornton-Berry agreed that the governors didn’t seem to know that the West Burton parents were so unhappy.   She told the council that she had invited one of the BAWB governors to have coffee with her – only for that governor to say that the chair of governors had said she shouldn’t accept.

One of the parish councillors spoke of a teaching head at a church school of 120 pupils who was at the top of the pay scale who earned about £20,000 less per year than the non-teaching head of BAWB which has 80 pupils. BAWB also has a part time business manager.

“The financial situation at BAWB is unsustainable,” commented Cllr Thornton-Berry. She also pointed out that, unlike councillors, the governing body of a school was unanswerable to anyone and was free to make all decisions  apart from that to close a school.

Cllr Pointon emphasised that the most important issue was the needs of the children  – and the councillors agreed that bussing the youngest children was contrary to that.

See: Cllr Pointon’s statement about educating primary school children.

West Burton CofE School – no solution

The parents of children at West Burton CofE School and many in the community served by that school have lost confidence in the BAWB Board of Governors, Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire County Council’s Corporate Director of Children and Young People’s Service, has stated.

He wrote to Derek Walpole, chair of the BAWB Board of Governors, in November 2018, to explain why the county council as the local education authority (LA) had reversed its decision and decided to support the request to defederate West Burton school.

He recognised that the BAWB governors had hoped that during the autumn term of 2018 the new transporting arrangements (bussing) would be successfully implemented and that the parents of children at West Burton school would, therefore, no longer have any objections.

But he added: “The transportation of pupils away from West Burton will never be accepted by the West Burton parents and community. There is obvious parental and community discord which means the three BAWB federation would lose West Burton support and this has negative implications for the education of all children.

“I believe, based on what I have seen and heard that the relationship between the parties is broken beyond repair as the West Burton parents and community have (despite your best efforts and unfairly in my view) lost confidence in the BAWB governance as evidenced by the formal complaint.”

Since mid 2018 there have been several meetings of parents and community members connected with West Burton school to which BAWB governors were invited  but none attended.  According to the minutes of the meeting of the BAWB Board of Governors in November 2018 it was pointed out that there was a vacancy for a co-opted member but the parents of children at West Burton School were not invited to nominate anyone.  Those parents have constantly pointed out that not one of the BAWB governors has listened to their arguments against bussing the youngest cohort of children from West Burton to Bainbridge during school days.

Mr Carlton did emphasise that decisions about the federation rested with the BAWB governors – and on January 21 the latter again decided against defederation. Following that decision several of the parents of pupils at West Burton school met to consider their options which included moving their children to other schools not connected to BAWB.

Referring to the minutes of the BAWB governance meetings in November and December 2018 they pointed out, yet again, how out of touch all the federation governors were with the majority of the parents of children attending West Burton school and the communities within its catchment area.  The parents were angry and  upset about some of the statements in those minutes which, they said, misrepresented them.

They very strongly disagreed with the following statements in those minutes: that parents could have been under duress to sign the letter requesting defederation; that the request for defederation had come from just five families and that Option 3a (bussing) could be seen to be working well with the children happy and settled.

Their anger and frustration increased when they read the eight-page letter of January 31 2019 from the Executive Head of the BAWB Federation, Charlotte L Harper, in which she explained the reasons why their request for defederation had been refused.

She wrote: “In his letter Mr Carlton reiterated on many occasions that the West Burton Community and parents have lost confidence in the BAWB Board and that there was unresolvable discord between BAWB Board and the ‘community’. The BAWB Board challenged the assertions about the community. The Director and LA officers have ONLY spoken with the defederation group, many of whom do not live in West Burton.”

Miss Harper continued: “It is not clear what ‘community’ refers to, but the BAWB Board are aware of support from many long standing residents of West Burton, at least two of whom have now written to him. The BAWB Board are concerned that the LA have demonstrated a clear lack of impartiality by relying solely on evidence given to them by the group seeking defederation, and then repeating this in writing without any checks or clarity of definition.”

The catchment area for West Burton school includes Walden, Bishopdale, Thoralby, Aysgarth, Swinithwaite, West Witton and even part of Redmire so it is not surprising that the parents requesting defederation (representing 85 per cent of the children in that school) do not all live in West Burton.

Mr Carlton has stated that the LA came to an impartial view based on the issues placed before it.

 

Miss Harper’s letter can be read here.

The reasons given by the county council for supporting defederation can be read here.

West Burton CofE School – a consultant’s view

Statement by David Pointon, independent educational consultant: As a member of the West Burton School Representative Group I am very aware that the debate about the request to defederate the school has fuelled a lot of misinformation about education, schools and the optimum size of classes.

The principle purpose of a school is to equip children with the knowledge and skills to be successful in their lives and be useful members of their community and the wider universe.

It should be providing opportunities to enable the children to access knowledge as well as providing a stable, safe, inclusive and comfortable environment in which the children can learn. It should be concentrating on learning before teaching.

Learning is an individual process.

All schools should be concentrating on the above ‘shoulds’ with the children as the central main priority.

Teaching should be adapted to the needs of the children. There is much supporting evidence that most children thrive and learn better in small groups. In fact some children would be submerged in large groups and may then need special provision. Teaching is imposed on learning and requires very special people to ensure that all childrens’ individual needs for learning are met.

These are the basic premises that govern a successful school. Does your child’s school meet these standards?

A school should not be training children to pass tests and to help to get a good Ofsted or other reports, so it can meet financial targets.  It should not be stealing and misusing the children’s time in useless exercises (such as in-school-day bussing).

For time is our only non-renewable resource.

Every adult with any contact with the school has a responsibility to enable and support the learning and teaching to be achieved, to the highest standards.

D.G.Pointon, BA, Cert Ed.,DipCTB, CETHIC, Fellow of VIEW

Independent Educational Consultant.

(VIEW is the professional association  of the Visual Impairment Education and Welfare)

See also my post about the first time that the BAWB federation refused the request to defederate West Burton School. The majority of the parents of children at West Burton school wrote to the BAWB Board of Governors in November 2018 repeating the request for defederation. That was refused in January 2019.

West Burton CofE School – defederation refused

West Burton CofE School – NYCC to be questioned

On Wednesday morning (July 18) the ‘Shadow Board of Governors’ for West Burton CofE School will present a question at the full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council. This follows the decision by the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools  (BAWB) governing board not to allow that at West Burton to defederate. Here is County Councillor John Blackie ’s full statement following that decision:

 

The BAWB Board of Governors are in flat denial if they consider they are acting in the best interests of the children who attend West Burton Primary School by refusing the request by their parents, the local community and a highly talented Shadow Board of Governors to de-federate the School, and return it to the stand-alone status under which it flourished for over 100 years.   How they can say this beggars belief, as their plans are to bus children as young as 4 years of age 40 minutes a day, on top of the travelling to and from their homes to West Burton, often in the hostile weather we have here in the Upper Dales.

Their decision has now put the School on a fast track to closure as they have blatantly ignored the strongest evidence that the understandable parental objection to travelling combined with the uncertainty around the future of the school will see between 7 – 10 pupils currently on its roll being registered at Leyburn Primary School next term, and those intending to start at the school in September, up to 7 pupils, doing the same.  This leaves West Burton School with just 13 pupils and very vulnerable to almost immediate closure.  If instead it had been allowed to de-federate then there would have been 30 pupils there next term, more than enough to keep it successful and sustainable in the future.

The suspicion is that the BAWB Board of Governors always had a hidden agenda to close West Burton Primary School, so it appears they have got their own way – this is simply closure by stealth disguised as “due diligence”.

Sadly the Leadership and Management of the BAWB Federation has form on record for not listening to the communities they serve as it was only 3 years ago when bussing arrangements were implemented between Bainbridge and Askrigg Primary Schools, just under a mile and a 4 minutes journey away from each other, that saw 14 pupils from Bainbridge transfer to Hawes Primary School.  If those pupils had remained in the BAWB Federation then there would have been more funding available to have all teaching undertaken at West Burton, and the unwelcome travelling avoided.

The Board of Governors does not feature one Governor from West Burton, so it is more than a pity it did not take seriously the issues raised by the Shadow Board for the School, many of whom live in the village,  and know the wishes of the parents and the community intimately, or we would not be facing the crisis and collapse we are today.

The Local Educational Authority appears to be involved in a conspiracy as the announcement to refuse the request for de-federation was sent to all parents in the form of a press release issued by North Yorkshire County Council, despite it steadfastly maintaining the decision was the BAWB Federation’s to make, and make alone.  This adds to the concerns and begs the question – was there always a shared agenda between them to close West Burton Primary School ??

The decision marks the end of the beginning, not the end of the end for a stand-alone West Burton School.  There is to be a Public Question asked by a Shadow Board Governor at next Wednesday’s County Council meeting.  And an appeal made to a higher education authority where the failure of the BAWB Board of Governors to recognise what is truly best for the children and the community in which they live amidst will be put to the test.

West Burton CofE School – defederation refused

North Yorkshire County Council issued the following statement today concerning the BAWB Federation of Schools and West Burton CofE School. And see below for the letter I sent to them on June 25 in which I pointed out that it had taken just two years for the Federation’s governing board to lose the confidence and respect of all the parents of children at West Burton CofE School.

Statement issued by North Yorkshire County Council on Friday, July 13:

The governing board of three Wensleydale primary schools has decided it cannot support the wishes of community members and parents at West Burton Church of England Primary School for the school to defederate.

Governors of Bainbridge and West Burton Church of England primary schools and Askrigg Voluntary Controlled primary school, which are federated as a single body, took a decision against West Burton’s defederation at a meeting last night.

This decision follows a period of due diligence when governors met with representatives of the West Burton community to explore their wishes to defederate.

The West Burton community started to push for defederation after the governing board decided in May to remodel the federation in order to address the challenges they face around lower pupil numbers and finances.

Governors believe that their agreed option – which followed two separate consultations and which involves nursery, reception and key stage 1 classes on the Bainbridge site with key stage 2 classes divided between Askrigg and West Burton – provided the best educational and financial advantages.

However, as many respondents from West Burton were unhappy with this decision, governors also agreed to explore the possibility of West Burton’s defederation.

“We worked very hard as a governing body to agree a sustainable solution which involves the least disruption and continues to offer a very high quality of education for the children of Wensleydale,” said Derek Walpole, the federation chair of governors. “It was a very tough decision for governors to make and was never going to please everybody.

“This subsequent decision against defederation has also been very tough. We recognise the concern of West Burton’s parents and have listened very hard to what they have had to say. But we believe it is better if schools work together and we must also consider the sustainability of all three schools and what is in the best educational and social interests of children.

“We respect the decision of the governing body” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools. “Governors have explored the possibility of West Burton defederating with diligence and thoroughness and have listened very carefully to what people have had to say. The county council will continue to work with the governing body in future to continue to tackle the challenges of sustainability.”

………………

On the website of the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools the headteacher, Charlotte Harper, states: “We work actively with our parents and community to ensure that we provide the best educational experience for our children. At Bainbridge and West Burton our Christian ethos underpins the life of the schools and is the basis of our excellent relationships with our parents, local communities and churches.”

I was so concerned that the Federation was not doing this that on June 25 I wrote the following letter to the co-headteachers and the governors:

I am a member of Aysgarth Parochial Church Council and, in the past few months, I have attended two meetings of parents of West Burton CofE School. The following are my personal opinions.

As I said to Heather Limbach (the West Burton school diocesan foundation governor on the BAWB Board of Governors) some time ago, I do not think that bussing the youngest cohort of children from West Burton school to Bainbridge each day as proposed in Option 3A is in accordance with any aspect of educational good practice.

I have read the documents on the BAWB Schools website concerning Due Diligence. I await with interest the budget projections drawn up by some parents of children at West Burton School to see how these compare with that of Sally Dunn, head of finance at North Yorkshire County Council.

I also read James Kilner’s report of 5th June following his Due Diligence visit during the summer term of 2018. I have several concerns about that report and outline some of these below. Some of that report was very general and was not specific to the BAWB Federation of Schools including Improving outcomes and the Summary. It did seem to paint a glowing picture of the Federation and its leadership but didn’t provide any evidence to substantiate this. Surely an important Due Diligence report should be based upon evidence?

At the top of page three Mr Kilner stated that the Federation was well led and managed and added: “The strength of leadership is at all levels including a well-informed, professional and forward thinking governing body of the Federation.”

Yet, at the meetings I attended in West Burton I was saddened to see that the majority, if not all, of the parents of children at West Burton school expressed the opinion that, within two years of joining the BAWB Federation, they had lost any respect and trust they had had in its leadership.

Has the leadership been well-informed about this erosion of confidence? And if those parents are so disillusioned how does that impact upon the expected benefits to families and children at West Burton school? For, as Mr Kilner stated (page 6) – the benefits to families and the children’s outcomes should be maximised.

Mr Kilner visited the three schools before Option 3A has been introduced. On April 19th the executive Headteacher outlined Option 3A to parents, carers and stakeholders (published on the BAWB website).

The “cons” listed included: “Only 17 children on site at West Burton – isolating”; “Only 1 class at Askrigg – isolating”; and “cohorts of children never being taught together.”

I cannot see how that fits with Mr Kilner’s statement under the heading Effective practice (page 6) : “Schools with large Integrated learning that offers a balance of free flow and structure learning demonstrate the most effective practice…. “ Or under “Summary” – “Therefor (sic), securing children’s personal, social and emotional readiness to learn ….. can best be achieved when children are able to interact with a large number of their peers wherever possible.” (For which Mr Kilner offers no evidence.)

This surely does not fit with an option which increases the isolation of children. Nor will pupils grow in confidence and learn to cope with stress when their parents don’t feel that neither they nor their children are being well cared for by the Federation.

I, therefore, question how useful Mr Kilner’s report is concerning Due Diligence. Please could you enlighten me.

(As yet I have received no response.)

For James Kilner’s Due Diligence Report  5th June 2018 go to BAWB-Community Engagement 

And for details of Option 3A go to the same page on the BAWB website and read Community Engagement Archive

For the response from the West Burton community and parents see West Burton documents produced by John Blackie 

Parents seek “independence” for West Burton school

The determination of parents to take back control of their school at West Burton was very clear at Thoralby village hall on Monday May 14. They voted unanimously in favour of seeking defederation from the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools (BAWB) because they believed that from September this would no longer provide the best form of education especially for the youngest children enrolled at West Burton school.

The parents of 21 of the 23 children at West Burton CofE school  confirmed that they preferred defederation from bussing the four to seven-year-olds from West Burton to Bainbridge each school day for lessons. The latter option was approved by the governors of BAWB on May 10 with the intention that it would begin in September.

Speaking for the parents West Witton parish councillor Dr Graham Bottley said that they believed the only route to long term stability for all three schools was for that at West Burton to de-federate. North Yorkshire County councillor John Blackie, who chaired the meeting, described it as the beginning of the campaign to save West Burton school.

“The only way we will save West Burton school and continue the wonderful educational experience that it gives is for it to defederate,” he said.

Burton cum Walden parish councillor Jane Ritchie described it as a local mini-Brexit. “You must get all the facts first before you jump – we owe that to our children,” she warned.

Cllr Bottley described how the instability about the future of the school had had a negative impact upon the children and their parents. “We want to let the governors of BAWB know that parents have had enough with the uncertainty of the past two years. We just want stability for the school,” he said.

Cllr Bottley said the bussing option would undermine the future sustainability of West Burton school. Parents did not want their young children bussed around the dales or siblings split between three schools, he explained. It was also likely that if children formed friendships at Bainbridge they would not want to return to West Burton.

He added that the instability had created a downward spiral with even less children attending West Burton school. He stated: “There won’t be a school at West Burton in two years.“If you’ve got a good stable school families will move into the area. If you’ve got stability at West Burton school it will grow. And if you’ve got stability at Bainbridge and Askrigg schools they will grow too.”

He believed all three schools would be stronger if that at West Burton defederated.

Some of the parents spoke of their frustration that they were not represented on the BAWB board of governors and that, as the budgets for the three schools had been amalgamated, they had no say in how the money was allocated.

“A positive point for defederation would be to be in control of our own budget and make decisions about what we can spend,” one parent said.

Cllr Blackie told them that they would have to make a compelling case for defederation. They also needed to set up a shadow board of governors. The latter would then form a sub-committee which would negotiate with that of BAWB.

Over eight people have said they are willing to take on what he described as the onerous task of being a member of that shadow board.

The decision to defederate or not would be made at a private meeting of the BAWB board of governors in July, Cllr Blackie said. He explained that if the BAWB governors agreed to defederation the shadow board would work alongside it for several months. He thought defederation could then be completed by January 2019.

He reported that he had been assured that if the BAWB governors agreed to de-federation that bussing the youngest children would not start in September.

Several councillors from Aysgarth and District and Burton cum Walden, agreed that the defederation of West Burton school was a better option than bussing the youngest children.

Richmondshire District councillor Yvonne Peacock was very concerned about maintaining the quality of education at West Burton school and the possibility of it being closed. She stated: “My worry is the impact upon the community.”

Cllr Bottley commented: “Losing a school has an impact on the whole village. It has an impact on the shops because you have less families and more holiday homes. You might lose the pub – everything interacts.

The schools at Bainbridge and Askrigg will remain in the federation and many of the parents at the meeting at Thoralby village hall said they hoped that the cooperation that had been built up between those and that at West Burton would continue if the latter left.

Cllr Blackie agreed that defederation didn’t need to be the end of collaboration and emphasised that as a county councillor he would work hard to ensure that all three schools remained open.

 

The future of West Burton school

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Leaving the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of schools (BAWB) may be the only way of saving West Burton CofE School parents said on May 1.

They told Burton cum Walden annual parish meeting that the latest bussing option put forward by the governors of BAWB would lead to the closure of West Burton school.

In its newsletter on April 20 the BAWB Federation stated that “Option 3A” provided the best opportunities for all its pupils and would get the federation back on track financially. It asked parents to help successfully implement the changes which would, it said, benefit their children.

According to a letter sent to parents on April 19 by BAWB that option would involve bussing all the Key Stage 1 and Foundation Stage children (aged four to seven) from West Burton to Bainbridge for lessons each day. This would  leave only  17 children at West Burton school.

At the meeting in West Burton village hall parents said that after two years at Bainbridge school their children would want to remain with their friends and so not return to West Burton.

West Witton parish councillor Graham Bottley said: “If we don’t do anything the school will be closed. I don’t want to stand by and let that happen. If it is defederated and then closes the school can say it had control of its own destiny. It needs a period of stability to allow the school to thrive.”

“We have been asking for years to have a West Burton school parent on the governing board of BAWB. Because we have no representation we don’t know what they are talking about. We only get the final decision.”

He said that in the past two years there had been various proposals for bussing children between the three schools which had created uncertainty and instability. Some parents had, therefore, chosen to send their children elsewhere and so the numbers at West Burton school  had decreased.

Like other West Witton parents he was against an option which would lead to the youngest children travelling by bus to West Burton and then on another to Bainbridge each day.

He mentioned the proposed new housing development at West Witton where over 60 per cent of the applicants for the affordable homes were young families. If there wasn’t a good school nearby they were likely to choose to live elsewhere and this would affect the dynamics of the village as the community needed a range of age groups, he said.

North Yorkshire County councillor John Blackie reported that at a recent meeting at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel  21 parents of children at West Burton school had unanimously agreed that if Option 3A was approved the school should become independent again.

Cllr Blackie added: “My own view is that if 3A is adopted there won’t be a West Burton school by September next year.”

Cllr Bottley said he believed an independent West Burton school would be viable and could be de-federated by September this year. “It is quite a short process,” he said. He explained that if the BAWB governors rejected a proposal for de-federation the parents could then apply to the Department of Education.

Fran Cartwright said the parents would not decide on what action to take until after the BAWB governors reach a decision on Option 3A on May 10. She  added: “If we do de-federate we will get control of our own budget.”  The consultation period on Option 3A ends on May 3.

Cllr Bottley said that according to their provisional budget an independent West Burton school would make a small loss for a few years. “At the moment the federation is seeing very big losses which the county council is supporting,” he added.

Juliet Madden, who leads collective worship at West Burton school each week, reminded the meeting that when West Burton school joined BAWB it had £70,000 in the bank but that had now all gone.

She praised the teaching staff at West Burton who had maintained an excellent atmosphere even when there were so many  uncertainties. “We have two excellent teachers who do not know if they will be teaching in September,” she said.

Burton cum Walden parish councillor Rowland Dent told the parents: “You have had the experience of being in the federation and clearly you don’t like it. The school has had a good report in the past and good finances so there’s no reason why it can’t return to that – rather than this fickle system where you are being treated like children.”

Parents said that they would like to see the  collaboration between Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton schools continue and believed  that the future of Bainbridge and Askrigg schools would not be undermined if West Burton school left the federation.

Above: West Burton school (on left) is an important and integral part of the community.