Learning in a Rural Area


One of the things that rural schools have in common is that they are relatively small compared to the national average. Unfortunately I don’t have the space here to describe both the delights and difficulties of working in a small school, but suffice to say it can be a real challenge at times. To overcome this, our school has formally linked up with all its primary schools and other partners to form the South West Shropshire Learning Trust. In an age when competition between schools encouraged, it is very refreshing to be able to work in a truly collaborative way with like-minded people and for the benefit of the children.

The Learning Trust has been in existence since October 2014 and already has notched up some notably successes: Literacy, mental health provision, mathematical calculation policies, common assessment approaches, teacher exchanges, special education needs provision, sharing services, attitude to learning and outstanding teacher conferences are just some of the things we’ve come together to organise. The main aim is not to save money in these austere times, but to work together to improve the opportunities and support available to young people in South-West Shropshire.This year, for example, we will be jointly employing an Educational Psychologist to work with our more vulnerable students.

As all schools in South West Shropshire are either good or outstanding, we also have a wealth of expertise that is worth sharing. The Trust is a cooperative so we will soon be encouraging local people to join and become members and have a say in what projects we undertake. We’ve already had a very strong steer from our own school councils! We believe the Trust has a lot of potential to be a force for ‘good’ in these difficult times for rural communities.

Alan Doust
The Community College, Bishop’s Castle


Co-operative Learning comes to South Shropshire

In a bold move, a group of schools in SW Shropshire are in the process of setting up a Co-operative Trust to support education in their area. Bishop’s Castle Primary School, Norbury Primary School and The Community College Bishop’s Castle, are three of the eight schools which are currently consulting with stakeholders on proposals for a Schools’ Co-operative Trust.

Building on already close collaboration, the Trust will see governors, headteachers and staff from each school working with each other and with partners from business, Higher Education and the Diocese in a long-term sustainable relationship which will continuously look at ways in which opportunities for their pupils and students can be maximised.

The Trust’s main focus will be on teaching and learning, promoting high aspirations amongst children and ensuring positive outcomes for all pupils, looking to harness resources efficiently to enhance learning in this unique area of the county, with all its wealth of opportunities and challenges. The Trust will have charitable status and therefore be eligible for many funding streams to support its projects.

Alan Doust, headteacher at The Community College, remarked “It’s a very exciting move, because this family of schools with its partners has the power to make a real difference to education in our area. We will be working together collaboratively, in the best interests of all young people. Many schools up and down the country are opting for a co-operative approach - most of Cornwall’s education is based on co-operative trusts – and the potential benefits are enormous. One of the things I particularly like about forming a co-operative is the fact that all your key stakeholders – parents, students, teachers, the community – can become members and feel they have ownership in the Trust. By working together was can only become stronger and this in turn will benefit all our children.”

Kay Miller, headteacher of St George’s CE Primary School in Clun, another school which is involved, says “It’s going to allow us to pool our resources and our expertise, and be pro-active in addressing any barriers to education. We don’t lose our separate identities as schools, which is important, but it does allow us to adopt a more strategic approach to solving issues. It is also a way of channelling support and making sure it’s as effective as it can be”.
All co-operatives are built on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-op members believe in ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

The consultation period for the South-West Shropshire Co-operative Schools Trust will run from 31 January to 10 March 2014. There will be a public meeting at The Community College, Bishop’s Castle on Tuesday 4th February at 7pm. More detail and a full list of all schools and partners involved can be found on the schools’ websites.

Please click on this link to view the Trust Consultation Documents