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The future of South Shields School

Why is the school closing?

South Shields School was rated 'inadequate' by Ofsted in its full inspection visit in October 2017. Under government legislation, the Department for Education places a Directive Academy Order on any school judged to be inadequate by Ofsted and the Regional Schools Commissioner must then identify an academy trust to sponsor the school.

In line with legal requirements, the Regional Schools Commissioner informed the Secretary of State for Education that a sponsor could not be found. The school could not become an academy without a sponsor. As a result, the Secretary of State advised that the Directive Academy Order could be revoked, but only on the condition that the Council undertook the statutory process to close the school. Therefore the Council was required to start a consultation process on closure.

What if Ofsted re-inspected the school? (updated)

Ofsted would not normally monitor or inspect a school with a Directive Academy Order. However the Lead Member for Children's Services wrote to the Ofsted Regional Director to request their support in undertaking a further inspection. This inspection took place on 8-9 May 2019. The report is available on the Ofsted website.

The school has shown some recent improvement, does that change things? (updated)

Data shows that the school's GCSE results improved this year on last year's results in Maths and English. 

The school was rated as 'good' by Ofsted in 2014 and then rated as 'Inadequate' in October 2017.

The Ofsted inspection of May 2019 recognised some improvement. However the school was rated overall as 'requires improvement'.

However the key issue facing the school is not because of school standards - it is about the fall in the numbers of pupils coming into the school and longer term viability. With such low numbers coming into the school, the balance and breadth of the curriculum will be seriously affected. The numbers of pupils choosing South Shields School has been steadily falling. Pupils and parents made their choice of school before the consultation process started.

Why is there no sponsor?

The key reason the Regional Schools Commissioner has not been able to find a sponsor is falling pupil numbers, leading to concerns about the viability of the school in the future.

Pupil numbers for September 2018 are at their lowest since the new school opened in 2007 and are predicted to fall further in future years. Since school funding is in the main based on pupil numbers, falling numbers create significant financial difficulties. The school was originally built for 1100 pupils and at the time of consultation, it had 413 pupils.

Why can't the Council just step in to keep the school open? 

The current legislation does not allow the Council to continue to maintain a school with a Directive Academy Order so it is not an option legally for the school to be run by the Council. There are no alternatives that would enable the school to remain open without a sponsor to take over.

Are there any alternative options?

No alternative options have been identified to resolve the school's viability issues, caused by reducing pupil numbers. The key issue for South Shields School is low and falling pupil numbers and no options considered to date or examples from elsewhere in the country will resolve that. Improved standards, which includes school results or Ofsted judgement, will not impact on the viability.

Why have some schools nationally had Academy Orders for over two years?

There are a small number of schools nationally that have had an Academy Order in place for two or more years. However, each school has its own specific individual factors that apply to them, so a direct comparison is not possible. We are only aware of 4 secondary schools who have had a Directive Academy Order removed since the 2010 Academies Act came into force.

The specific factors in relation to the viability of South Shields School includes the close proximity of other secondary schools with substantial places; lack of demographic growth in the area; and the financial implications of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) agreement for which no solutions can be identified.

What has the Council done to help the school to find a sponsor?

Although it is the responsibility of the Regional School's Commissioner (RSC) to find a sponsor, the Council has worked closely with the RSC and has provided a variety of information in this search.

The Council has also held discussions directly with two potential sponsors but both of these later withdrew their interest in the school due to viability concerns. The due diligence undertaken by potential sponsors clearly identified viability concerns (not school results) as the critical issue. The impact of the school becoming unviable is a risk for any organisation coming forward to consider sponsoring the school.

Where are the nearest schools with places?

Mortimer Community College and Boldon Schools have sufficient places to accommodate pupils from South Shields School. The inspection reports for these schools are available on the Ofsted website.

Many pupils from the South Shields School catchment area already attend these schools.

Parents can also express a preference for any other secondary school in South Tyneside, although not all schools will have places available in each of the relevant year groups.

Has the impact on the community around South Shields School been taken into account?

As part of the consultation we gathered information about the impact on the community if South Shields School were to close. This involved an assessment of where people live and what the barriers would be to attending another nearby school, for example, transport to school and uniform costs.

What will happen to pupils of South Shields School who have Special Educational Needs (SEN)?

There is a relatively low number of pupils with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) compared to other secondary schools in South Tyneside, although the school has identified larger numbers of pupils who require additional SEN support. The Council's SEND Team will work closely with the school and parents to explore the best options for all pupils with additional needs and those with EHCPs.

My child attends South Shields School - what should I do?

There will be no change at the school in the 2018/ 2019 academic year.

From September 2018 there will continue to be a Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10 and Year 11. From September 2019, no year 7 pupils will be admitted and current year 9 pupils will transfer to a new school for GCSE years.

My child started Year 7 in September 2018

Nothing will be changing at South Shields School in the 2018/2019 academic year and we would expect all Year 7 pupils from September to be at South Shields School for at least 2 years.  Transition plans will be put into place so changes are made in a managed way limiting the impact on children.  Parents are strongly advised not to move children outside of the planned transition.

I was going to apply for a Year 7 place for my child from September 2019 at South Shields School - what are my options? 

Parents are able to express a preference for up to 3 schools on an 'equal preference' basis. Further information is available from the Council's Admissions Team. Read more about secondary school admissions.

What happens if my child is doing GCSEs? 

We want to ensure there is as little disruption as possible for all pupils and particularly those who have already begun GCSEs. The transition is that pupils who went into Year 10 and Year 11 in September 2018 will complete their GCSEs at South Shields School. The Council is committed to supporting pupils to the end of their GCSE examinations. There is a commitment to the school remaining open until 2020.

Those pupils who will be going into Year 10 in September 2019 will move into their new school to begin their GCSEs in that year to minimise disruption.

Can I take my child out of South Shields School now?

As a parent you have a right to express a preference for a different school at any time. However, both the Council and the school would advise that you consider the planned transition, which will move whole year groups of pupils in a planned way in either September 2019 or September 2020. This will enable disruption to pupils to be minimised.  

During the period of organisational change, where there are increased numbers of pupils moving to different schools (in-year admissions), pupils will be admitted to the new school at the start of each half term.

Is there any support for additional travel costs?

Eligibility for support with home to school transport will be determined in line with the Council's home to school transport policy. Information is available at Help with school and college transport.

It is recognised that some pupils will need to make new journeys to school and some pupils may have further to travel. A review of the positioning of school crossing patrols will be carried out with a view to relocating patrol points if necessary. There is also sufficient local transport provision to cover the routes from home to school of current pupils.

What about the building?

We are not at this stage considering any potential future use of the building or the site. The school was built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which does limit options for future use and there are also statutory limitations that prevent loss of school sites for building.

We expect the school to continue to operate as a community or educational facility.

Cabinet decision

At their meeting on Wednesday 23 January 2019, Cabinet agreed the following:

The local authority to cease to maintain South Shields School with effect from 31 August 2020, with the closure phased as follows:

September 2018 to July 2019:

No changes - Years 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 to continue at South Shields School

September 2019 to July 2020:

No year 7

Years 8, 9, 11 remain at South Shields School

Year 10 pupils allocated to receiving schools to begin GCSE courses for September 2019

School closed from 31 August 2020:

Years 9 and 10 allocated to receiving schools for entry in September 2020

Cabinet report 23 January 2019 and background papers

Cabinet report – 23 January 2019442.37KB

Appendix 1 - Statutory Notice and Statutory proposal for the closure of South Shields School

Appendix 2 - Cabinet report - 12 September 2018

Cabinet report - 12 September 2018366.69KB

Appendix 3 - Cabinet report - 13 November 2018

Cabinet report - Statutory Consultation Process - South Shields School167.75KB

Appendix 4 - Information and response forms from informal consultation, including pupil projections

Consultation document268.25KB
Pupil forecasts16.65KB
Response form256.01KB

Appendix 5 - Notes from consultation meetings and written responses from informal consultation

Boldon School and Mortimer Community College drop in sessions74.18KB
Parents consultation - Years 7, 8 and 9150.68KB
Parents consultation - Years 10 and 11160.21KB
Collated responses5.47MB
Governing Board response258.14KB
NASUWT response104.15KB

Unison response179.76KB

Appendix 6 - Options appraisal following informal consultation

South Shields Viability Issues and Options226.98KB

Appendix 7 - Statutory Representations received

Appendix 7 - Responses received during representation period228.67KB

Appendix 8 - Petitions received

L Habbershaw: 

Petition (1)5.82MB
Petition (2)5.75MB
Petition (3)2.37MB
Petition (4)5.77MB
Petition (5)2.56MB

Change.org: 

Petition (change.org)440.16KB

Appendix 9Department for Education: Schedule 2 of the School Organisation (Establishment and Discontinuance) Regulations 2013 Statutory Guidance

Appendix 10 - Department for Education: Opening and Closing maintained schools: Statutory guidance for proposers and decision makers

Information for students and their parents and carers at South Shields School

There will be no changes made to South Shields School during the academic year 2018-19.

We understand that this is a difficult time for pupils, parents, carers, staff, governors and all associated with the school. South Tyneside Council is committed to working with parents to minimise the impact of any change.

A dedicated telephone number is in place for all parents and pupils:

0191 424 7847

Information for students and their parents and carers at South Shields School

There will be no changes made to South Shields School during the academic year 2018-19.

We understand that this is a difficult time for pupils, parents, carers, staff, governors and all associated with the school. South Tyneside Council is committed to working with parents to minimise the impact of any change.

A dedicated telephone number is in place for all parents and pupils:

0191 424 7847

Background information

South Shields School was opened in 2008 and moved to the new site on Nevison Avenue in 2011.

The school has places for 850 pupils aged 11 - 16. From September 2018 there are 528 pupils on roll. The new school was built under a Private Finance Initiative.

In October 2017 the school was inspected by Ofsted and received an overall judgement of inadequate. In these circumstances, the Regional Schools Commissioner (who works on behalf of the Secretary of State and the Department for Education) must, in law, place a Directive Academy Order upon the school and seek a preferred Sponsor. In these circumstances, as soon as an Academy Sponsor is found, the school becomes an Academy and can no longer be a Council maintained school.

The Directive Academy Order was placed on South Shields School in November 2017.  However, the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) has informed the Council that it has been unable to find a sponsor for the school. As a result of this, the RSC has advised the Council that the Secretary of State may revoke the Academy Order but only on the condition that the Council undertake a statutory consultation to close the school.

The Council is prevented from maintaining the school in these circumstances. Therefore the Council's Cabinet agreed on 5 September 2018 to consult on closure, as required by the Secretary of State, to revoke the Academy Order.

There are many reasons why the RSC may have been unable to find a sponsor for South Shields School, but the main concern for potential sponsors is around the viability of the school because of existing and projected low pupil numbers. These are 528 in September 2018 - the lowest since the school opened in 2008 - against a capacity of 850.

Based upon current admission patterns these numbers are predicted to fall further in future years. Funding for schools is based almost exclusively on pupil numbers, so if numbers continue to fall as predicted this will present significant financial difficulties for the school. When schools are in this position it becomes difficult to run the school and to offer a full curriculum.

As a result of no sponsor being found for South Shields School, the Department for Education required South Tyneside Council to undertake a statutory consultation on the potential closure of the school.

Next steps

On 23 January 2019 a meeting of cabinet made a decision to close the school. The Council is committed to supporting pupils, staff, parents and carers to make transition as smooth as possible and to ensure that quality of education is maintained. A phased closure will take place over two years:

  • Pupils in current years 10 and 11 will complete their secondary education at South Shields School
  • 2018/19 - No changes to the school in any year group
  • 2019/20 - No year 7 pupils will be admitted and current year 9 pupils will transfer to a new school for GCSE years
  • 2020/21 - Current years 7 and 8 to transfer to new schools

The table below shows the effect of phased closure on each year group:

Year group2018/192019/202020/21
Year 7No change (current year 7)N/AN/A
Year 8No change (current year 8)No change (current year 7)N/A
Year 9No change (current year 9)No change (current year 8)New school (current year 7)
Year 10No change (current year 10)New school (current year 9)New school (current year 8)
Year 11No changeNo change (current year 10)N/A

South Shields School will close on 31 August 2020.

Transition

There are a number of secondary schools within South Tyneside which have places in the relevant year groups to which pupils could be admitted. Mortimer Community College and Boldon School already have some commonality with South Shields School in their catchment areas.

Timeline
20 September 2018Consultation started
2 November 2018First round of consultation ended
13 November 2018Meeting of South Tyneside Council's Cabinet
21 November 2018Start of representation period
19 December 2018End of representation period
23 January 2019Cabinet decision on the future of the school

Pupil forecasts 

Information about pupil forecasts is available at South Tyneside pupil forecasts 2018-202516.2KB.

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