Schools unveil merger bid amid 'falling pupil numbers'

Head of school Lucy Thompson with SET Maidstone and Causton pupils in Felixstowe

Head of school Lucy Thompson with SET Maidstone and Causton pupils in Felixstowe - Credit: Seckford Education Trust

An infant and junior school in Felixstowe could be merged to create "one true primary school" - amid a "significant trend in falling pupil numbers".

The Seckford Education Trust (SET) is considering joining SET Maidstone - an infant school for children aged three to seven - and SET Causton, a junior school for seven to 11-year-olds, to form a single all-through primary from September 2022.

It believes the move "would bring the two communities closer together" and remove the need for an admissions process for SET Causton.

However, it has launched a consultation to ask parents what they think - and is also consulting on reducing pupil admission numbers for reception year "in recognition of a significant trend in falling pupil numbers in Felixstowe and the region".

Whereas SET Maidstone received 60 applications for 2018/19, it received 37 for 2020/21.

It says the fall mirrors the declining birth rate in the area.

A consultation document says: "We think the two schools could be stronger together.

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"The fall in numbers means that we do need to consider the sustainability of the schools.

"Splitting our resources between the two sites over time would not be an efficient use of our resources.

"We think that by combining forces we could enhance the pupils' experience of their time at school and we could increase opportunities for all."

Mark Barrow, SET chief executive, said: “We are looking forward to hearing people’s feedback on whether or not to merge SET Maidstone and SET Causton schools.

"Should the merger go ahead following the public consultation, the investment in a single school site would bring the two communities closer together and would create one true primary school for pupils age three to 11.

"It could also bring a more seamless transition for pupils from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2, therefore removing the need for an admissions process at this stage.”

Should the move go ahead, SET Maidstone and its special educational needs unit would move to SET Causton.

The Maidstone Road schools are less than 350metres apart and are already run by one head of school, Lucy Thompson.

However, both were built to accommodate many more pupils than they do at present.

There are 125 pupils on the roll at SET Maidstone and 211 at SET Causton.

How to have your say

The consultation began on Monday, June 21 and continues until Thursday, August 15.

There are a series of consultation events for parents and carers, including a coffee and chat on Tuesday, July 6, at 9.30am, and an after school drop-in at 3.30pm on the same day.

There will also be a chance for people to dial in to consultation events via Zoom at 3.30pm on Tuesday, July 6 and 9.30am on Monday, July 12.

Public consultation events for the wider community are also being held.

One is being hosted at SET Causton on Wednesday, June 30 at 6pm, while another will be held via Zoom on Thursday, July 8 at noon.

Email enquiries@seckfordeducation.org.uk or phone 01394 283375 to register for the Zoom events.

People can give their views on the proposal via an online survey or by emailing enquiries@seckfordeducation.org.uk, with the subject heading ‘SET School Merger’.

They can hand in written comments in at either SET Maidstone or SET Causton reception desk.

Mrs Thompson said: “We encourage parents, carers and anyone interested in our schools to attend one of the virtual or in-person events being held throughout the consultation period of 21st June to 15th August 2021 where they have the opportunity to find out more and ask questions.”

For more information about the proposals, visit https://www.maidstoneandcaustonschool.org.uk/consultation-set-maidstone-set-causton/ or call 01394 283375.