The first truly federal school in the UK was Dorset's Dunbury first school, created in the early 1990s, when the county was faced with four neighbouring village schools that were too small to survive. Dorset's solution was to close all four and reopen them as a single school on four sites.
One of the sites has since closed and, in September, Dunbury became a 4-11 primary school as a result of Dorset's re-organisation programme. Ofsted visited earlier this year and described the school as "good, with many good features".
"Federation is a strong answer to the problem of small rural primaries,"
says Simon France, who took over the Dunbury headship last year. "I didn't want to lead a small rural school.
"I've worked in small primary schools and I know that it's very hard to do the head's job effectively. When federation is proposed parents fear that their school is being halved, but in fact it's being doubled."