Real life in a rural setting

24th May 1996 at 01:00
The "everyday-story-of country-schools" article about federation (TES School Management Update, May 10) paints a cosy, if inaccurate, picture of the management of small schools. Our school has been through the long, at times painful, but ultimately worthwhile process of joining four village schools into a federation.

Decisions were made, not at Rotary lunches, but through a lengthy consultation process involving the local education authority, unions, staff, governing bodies and parents. The latter were consulted by questionnaire and frequent open meetings, not by having it "sold" to them by the local vicar.

Everyone was extremely wary of the change. Most parents, and staff, were in favour of the status quo. Who can blame them? All they want for their children is a school in their village. Three years down the road that is what they have, but add in the benefits of linking with three other villages - for example, the chance to work in bigger peer groups, the sharing of teachers' expertise - and you have a successful federated school which has just had an excellent report from the Office for Standards in Edu-cation.

What you do not have is any cost savings. The federated headteacher cannot be a teaching head in one village: the other villages immediately feel "inferior". There are many subtle pitfalls: we've been there. We would be willing to offer advice and information to anyone considering federation. To us it means survival of four village schools, but you need LEA, unions, staff and parents behind you. It is not an easy or cheaper option.

HEATHER BUNCE Vice-chairman of governors Dunbury CE first school Winterborne Whitechurch Blandford Dorset

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