Three small schools team up in federation

Three village primary schools – at Rake, Rogate and Compton – this week announced the formation of the new Downland Village Schools Federation (DVSF). 

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 1:07 pm
Updated Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 9:14 am
Compton and Up Marden CE Primary School (Credit: Google Maps) SUS-210104-104809001

The decision to proceed was taken at separate meetings of the boards of governors on Tuesday afternoon (March 30) and followed six weeks of public consultation.

Rake and Rogate formed a partnership in 2018, agreeing to share Rake’s headteacher, David Bertwistle and work towards a permanent federation structure – the original DVSF - which they completed last summer.

“We helped Rogate regain a good rating from Ofsted and they have been strong partners ever since,” he said. “I am confident our team can do the same for Compton – and gain from it again.”

Compton and Up Marden CE Primary School was rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted in February 2018, and this resulted in the loss of some pupils and the school being included in a list of five vulnerable small schools looked at by West Sussex County Council.

It was decided in April 2020 that a federation partner should be found, and its governors explored many options before selecting DVSF as the ideal partner.

Carolyn Costello, Compton & Up Marden chair of governors, says her board felt strongly that they wanted to retain the small, caring Christian ethos of the school, but felt it was in real danger.

“We fought hard to keep our gem of a village school when the county council questioned its future,” she said, “and we are confident this federation move is the right way to secure it. We felt DVSF offered a strong leadership team with a flawless record in school improvement but with a compatible culture and vision, - and the overwhelming support we have had from the local community and parents underlines our view.”

DVSF chairman Neil Ryder, said: “Watching what’s happened at Rogate - and Rake – since we got together has been a real joy and a privilege. Small schools can offer something very special to their pupils and local communities, but we believe they can gain even more by joining up in manageable groups to create stronger, more sustainable management and teaching teams. Above all, they can give their pupils the real advantages of small village schools combined with the broader skills and resources of bigger schools.”