Whitley Chapel C of E School – the case AGAINST closure
What makes us viable for the future?
We have a growing population – children of the next generation of Hexhamshire young farmers, and people moving in to the area, who want a small rural church school, who value the links with the church and local community and appreciate the specific character of our school, which is of a small family, fun, spontaneous and develops the whole child and doesn’t just concentrate on formal teaching and academic performance.
We have very high academic standards – the West of Northumberland is the highest achieving area in the county. Last year our Early Years assessments were the best in the West of Northumberland. We achieve consistently well in the Year 1 Phonics test and KS1 SATs, and we are reflective practitioners, constantly examining our results and seeing what support we can put in place to help children do even better.
We have experienced and well qualified staff – we always deliberately appoint experienced teachers over cheaper, newly qualified teachers. Our teaching assistants are skilled and experienced, and are incredibly supportive of our children.
Our governing body is highly competent – we have a strong governing body made up of dedicated members of the community who bring a range of skills that help us govern our school with wisdom and foresight and make the best possible use of the resources and children who we have been entrusted with.
We manage our budget extremely well – thanks to the help of wonderful office manager and advice from governors with accountancy skills, we have NEVER been in deficit. We always achieve best value, and we always plan expenditure with an eye to the future. Thanks to the new national funding formula and increase in the Sparsity grant, we are more financially viable than ever, and will be able to use these resources to increase our vision for a school that meets the individual needs of every child and reacts organically to the changing needs of its community.
We have wonderful premises – with the help of the diocese, we have worked hard to improve our buildings over time to make them attractive, warm, environmentally efficient and effective for learning. Our grounds are beautiful.
How have we changed our practice to reflect the needs of our school community?
Breakfast and After School care – we are aware that many of our parents work long hours, or travel outside of the area to work. We are incredibly lucky to have Linda living across the road, providing care that is not just reliable, but is loving and supportive and greatly contributes to the family ethos of our school.
Nursery schooling – we have made huge efforts to adapt the timetable to make it possible to offer as many Nursery hours to parents as possible, offering not just additional childcare, but quality teaching from an experienced Early years teacher and her team.
Community Powers – we have applied for permission to charge for additional hours of Nursery provision, so that working parents who are not eligible for more than 15 hours free childcare can access as many hours of nursery as we are able to offer rather than having to split their childcare across more than one provider.
Adapting our premises – reflecting the increase in the number of younger pupils coming in to school, we have added an attractive covered area to the back of the school so that our Early Years children can have access to additional outside space all year round. We have built on a large staffroom/office, which if circumstances require, could very quickly be adapted to an attractive additional classroom. We have converted our cramped library area into a Learning support room, which can be used for quiet group work and confidential meetings. Our classrooms have been decorated throughout, all the roofs have been insulated, we have installed new heaters, and put in attractive new double glazed windows. These improvements have been made by grants from the Diocese and money raised by the community to make our building fit for the 21st century.
Adapting our grounds – we have built a new Early Years playground for the younger children, and have improved our pond area for use in environmental studies. We have invested in equipment and training so that our wooded area can be used for Forest Schools activities.
Resourcing the curriculum – we have invested in high quality ICT equimpment – PCs, i-pads and SMART boards, as well as other IT equipment and training, to ensure that the pupils are well equipped to move on to their next stage of learning when they move to the next school.
Listening to what our stakeholders want – we make regular opportunities through questionnaires and coffee mornings for our parents to talk to us and tell us how we can work together to make their children’s education experience as positive and happy as possible. Our feedback shows a high level of satisfaction.
How do we fit in to the wider Whitley Chapel and Hexhamshire community?
Our community groups show how they value us by their support –we have received very generous donations of money and time from the Leek Club, the Young Farmers, the Woman’s Institute and our local councillor for specific building projects or resources.
Our community members come and help in school – over the years we have had many local people enjoying volunteering to come in and help in school, hearing readers, helping us with craft activities to do with the church festivals, or sharing skills such as cooking, art or gardening.
Our community shares their premises and facilities – we regularly use the Parish Hall next door to the school for our Christmas productions, and the Parish field for special events such as our ‘Big Camp’ or sponsored Fun Runs. We love our Christmas, Easter and Remembrance Day services in the church.
Our children participate in and enhance local community events – we are large contributors to the local Leek Show, providing exhibits of work and produce and enjoying celebrating shared endeavours. We love joining in events at church – the recent Mother’s Day ‘Clipping’, the Christmas Eve Nativity and the Good Friday activities. We take an active part in developing and learning about local history – we helped put on a special display and remembrance event to commemorate the outbreak of WW1, and we have helped to resource and dig at the Dukesfield Smelting Arches.
We believe that Whitley Chapel CE School is a school that serves its community well, and is loved and valued by the people it serves. We believe that we have been good stewards of the important task that has been given us – to teach the children of Hexhamshire, and set them on the first steps of learning for life. We are passionate about doing whatever we need to do to continue with this task well into the future.
Whitley Chapel C of E First School is a small rural school situated 5 miles from Hexham in beautiful countryside.Our aim is to provide an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice, in a happy, secure and well-disciplined environment.
In Whitley Chapel Church of England First School we work hard to make our pupils‘ first experience of education the best it can be. The key strengths of the school are its academic standards, its strong Christian ethos and links with the church and community, and the positive relationships between the children.
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