New ‘super head’ appointed for school federation

September 1, 2011 No Comments »

Cardiff council has appointed a new “super head” to oversee the federation of two city secondary schools.

Geraint Rees is the man charged with bringing Michaelston Community College and Glyn Derw High School together.

After months of preparation, the two schools will today become the first secondaries in Wales to “federate” and work together under the same budget.

They will retain their own identities but, from the start of term next week, start sharing services for the benefit of all pupils.

By formalising their existing relationship, the schools hope to make best use of their resources and enhance opportunities for their pupils.

As executive head, Mr Rees will be responsible for the federation’s “strategic leadership”, although Michaelston and Glyn Derw will each have their own head teacher.

“While the two schools in Ely and Caerau will retain their identities, they will be increasingly be managed in harmony to make sure we get the best deal for young people,” said Mr Rees.

“We are hoping to harness the energy of the two schools and get them working under one umbrella. It will take a little while to settle down and we’ll have to see how it goes.”

Guidelines approved by Education Minister Leighton Andrews promote sharing best practice, resources and expertise to raise standards.

But the Welsh Government has no say in the composition of federations – a responsibility that rests solely with school governing bodies.

The possibility of federating Michaelston and Glyn Derw was first floated last year following a consultation with pupils, parents, head teachers and school staff.

Mr Rees said the coming together would increase the schools’ “buying power” and, ultimately, strengthen their position in a difficult financial climate.

“Currently, both would be defined as small schools of about 700-750 pupils each,” he said.

“By combining the two we can manage them as an entity of 1,500 pupils, which is the same as you would have in a large comprehensive.

“It will allow us to compete for a larger budget but we know funding is going to be tight. Working within the budgets of the two schools harnessed together, you might be able to make that money go further.”

Mr Rees said he did not see the federation process leading to staff redundancies and duplication of roles could, in fact, prove beneficial.

“If you don’t need two people doing the same job you might be able to fill a gap elsewhere. For example, you might want somebody to spend more time seeking out commercial sponsorship and support,” he said.

“The management teams across the two schools will be slightly smaller than they were historically but to see the period of change through you have to have leadership.”

Long-serving head teachers Mary Campbell and Dewi Jones have retired from Michaelston and Glyn Derw, and Cardiff council will be advertising their positions next term.

The authority hopes a new management structure will be in place by January 1, with Mr Rees retaining his overarching leadership role.

In the meantime, he said pupils would continue to attend their local school and should not expect a big change to their day-to-day education.

“There’s a time for everything and I think being part of a larger entity is something both schools actually need,” he said.

“There will be a shared curriculum, shared pastoral and IT systems and a shared business management structure across the two schools. The offer will be the same for both and it should allow us to focus more on teaching, learning and pastoral support for children.

“Meanwhile, we will do what we can to fight for the best possible budget to make this work. The current state of public finances means it isn’t an easy time, but surviving as small schools would be increasingly impossible.”

Mr Rees was head teacher at Cardiff’s Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr for a decade following its launch in 1998.

More recently, he was employed by the council’s education department in an advisory role.

Mr Rees, who confessed to having “been around the block”, said the fruits of the new federation should be judged in three years.

 

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