Monday 13th May 2019

Dear parent,

We’re sending important paperwork home with your child today, and we’ve also attached all paperwork and links to the bottom of this Blog Post, inviting you to take part in a consultation regarding the formation of a Co-operative Education Trust to be called the Braunton Learning Co-operative.

Before you read that letter and other consultation material, we wanted to explain briefly what is behind this proposal and what it means for Georgeham School.

As a school we are part of what is called the Braunton Learning Community comprising Braunton Academy, the three Primaries in Braunton (Caen, Kingsacre and Southmead), Marwood Primary and ourselves. Government funding for Learning Communities ceased a number of years ago but the six schools have continued to work together informally (sharing ideas, moderation of work, events such as joint sporting activities and competitions).  We believe that pupils and our staff have derived benefit from activities that engage those schools that are part of our wider geographic community and which share the common feature of the Academy as the secondary school which most pupils go on to attend.

Collaborating with other schools is extremely important for any school but especially a small rural Primary like ours. We also collaborate informally with a number of other small Primaries, all part of what is called the Countryside and Coastal Schools Network (which includes Kingsacre and Marwood amongst others) and we are part of the North Devon Schools Teaching Alliance, with whom we occasionally work to support trainee teachers in our school.

Whilst all these collaborations have been beneficial, for some time now the Governors have felt we should explore more formal arrangements in order to strengthen and deepen these relationships.  We have explored many options, including joining a Multi Academy Trust, of which there are an increasing number in North Devon (Tarka Learning Partnership, Ventrus and Alumnus to name a few).  However the government impetus for all schools to academise has declined and whilst there may be some benefits, it is a not a model we are comfortable with for our school at the present time.

Late last year at a workshop for all the Braunton schools a proposal came forward for a different model of formal collaboration called a Co-operative Education Trust. This has struck a chord, and this is what we are now consulting on.

A fuller explanation of the technicalities of a Co-operative Trust, which is a legal entity with charitable status, can be found in the accompanying material, but in effect it is a formal commitment by each of the participating schools to work together to create the best possible educational opportunities for all our children. In some ways it is what we have already been doing but in a more formal, committed and focussed way.  It is a democratic and mutually supportive structure.

We are doing this because the governors and school believe that over time it will strengthen and enhance the capacity of our school and lead to better outcomes for our children and specifically because we believe that working with the schools closest to our own, including the secondary school that most of our pupils go on to attend, will be beneficial for our children in the wider community that they live in.  That is our over-riding aim.

Whilst we believe that this will lead to changes in what we can offer as a school and improved outcomes, much will stay the same:

  • Our staffing with Mr Thomas as Head Teacher and the terms and conditions of our staff
  • Our ethos, vision and values which drive everything we do at the school: although we will also commit to the co-operative values which are set out in the consultation material (and which are great values!)
  • Our funding although we hope that by working together we can obtain better value from the money we do receive
  • The structure, responsibilities and functions of our Governing Board.
  • Our status as a Church of England Foundation school maintained by the local Authority.

In forming the Co-op, four of the schools – Caen, Kingsacre, Southmead and Marwood – are having to consult also on changing their status from “Community” to “Foundation”. We (and the Academy) do not as we are already foundation schools so this part of the consultation is not relevant. Our different status also means that we would join as “Partner Schools” but this has no practical significance in regards our role or status within the co-operative.

The consultation ends on 27th June and on 4th July each of the Governing Boards of the converting schools will meet concurrently to reflect on the consultation and decide whether or not to proceed. We will attend the same day and in the light of the views we have received, and the decisions of each of the other schools, also make the decision as to whether or not to proceed to join the co-op as a Partner School. If the decision is taken to proceed then the Trust will come in to being on 1st September.

We would encourage you to read the consultation material, ask questions and respond. You are invited to any of the parents’ evenings at each of the converting schools, or the public meeting at Southmead on the 23 May, which will cover both the process of conversion and forming the co-operative, or you may like to just come along to our own parents’ meetings where we can talk to you directly about how the Cooperative Trust will benefit our school.  The meetings will be held on Tuesday 11th June at 2.45pm and again at 6pm.  We would encourage parents to attend one of these meetings, even those whose children will be moving onto Braunton Academy next year as the Academy are very much part of this proposal.

As a Governing Board along with the Head Teacher, we are excited at the possibilities this significant development in the life of our school will bring and we commend it to you.

Ali Smith, Chair of Governors, and
Julian Thomas, Headteacher


Consultation link: Click here

BLC Trust Letter (sent out from all consulting schools and to every parent, staff member and Governor)

Braunton Learning Co-operative Proposal Consultation Information Pack (Summary, Vision, Aims and a list of dates)

Consultation Summary letter  (repeated as a blog post above)