Grantham Journal letters: Do not fear for future of Walton

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I refer to Dr Kim’s letter in last week’s Journal regarding the proposal submitted by (Walton Girls’) school governors to the Department for Education with the unanimous approval of the board.

Whilst I respect Dr Kim’s sincerely held views and the views of any parents who may be concerned about the possible change to co-educational provision, I should like to offer some re-assurance that there is absolutely no plan to change the educational character of this high-performing academy. The teachers, Senior Leadership Team and principal collectively have considerable experience in teaching boys as well as girls. The proposal is to introduce boys into Year 7 in a phased and managed way.

At the end of November, Walton was inspected by an experienced team of senior managers drawn exclusively from other schools in the East Midlands. They observed over 40 lessons and talked with a range of students including some from the co-educational sixth form. This Full Academy Review confirmed that the overall quality of provision including behaviour and outcomes was, in Ofsted terms, Outstanding. As chair of governors, I was delighted to hear for myself the team’s findings and I congratulate all involved. Whatever the decision of the Regional Schools Commissioner, I know that the principal and leadership team remain robustly committed to driving up outcomes for individual pupils at every level and to maintaining the impeccable standards of behaviour and outstanding quality of provision.

I should also like to stress that the consultation was thorough and wide-reaching. It extended over six weeks (two weeks longer than that required by the Department) with a total of four meetings with parents. The proposal is supported by Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire local educational authorities.

Two key factors have influenced Walton governors in favour of the change to co-educational provision. The first is that we would like local primary school boys as well as girls to have the chance to be educated in a successful academy. Walton can help meet the needs of Grantham’s children many of whom currently have to travel to schools out of the county as at least one non-selective local co-educational secondary school is considerably over-subscribed. Walton has the capacity to accommodate at least some of the children from families moving into the new housing developments already taking place or planned in Grantham. The plans for new homes need to be matched by sufficient primary and secondary school places and the proposal for co-educational provision at Walton will, we hope, be part of the bigger solution whilst maintaining the school’s ethos and character.

The second factor is driven by economic efficiency and effectiveness. In common with many schools across the county, Walton has effectively had the same basic quantum of funding per pupil for several years but had been expected to pay teachers and support staff the one per cent pay increase allowed in the public sector and has had to make economies in other areas. It is, however, not sustainable for Walton to continue to find savings indefinitely whilst we remain under our agreed capacity which is broadly 150 pupils per year and our current numbers are approximately 135 girls per year. The additional revenue funding which we might gain from additonal pupils will help us more easily to maintain a breadth of curriculum and excellent facilities and would place us in a stronger financial position.

I would therefore urge readers to email the Regional Schools Commissioner for the East Midlands in support of the proposals for co-educational provision at Walton (EMH.RSC@education.gov.uk).

Dr John Manterfield

Chair of Governors