Business scheme for Litcham schools

NORFOLK'S army of small schools could be shored up against the threat of closure by a groundbreaking scheme to give them a share in a business manager who will “lighten the load” on headteachers, it was revealed on Tuesday.

NORFOLK'S army of small schools could be shored up against the threat of closure by a groundbreaking scheme to give them a share in a business manager who will “lighten the load” on headteachers, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The manager would oversee the finances of a host of schools - enabling heads to throw off the shackles of admin and concentrate more fully on teaching and learning.

They could also increase income by making better use of school facilities and save cash by bulk-buying school equipment and services.

The Litcham cluster in mid-Norfolk is one of six areas across England where the advanced school business manager (ASBM) scheme is being trialled.


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Litcham High, nine primaries and a children's centre are involved, and interviews for the new post are expected to happen in the second week of November.

Norfolk County Council is watching the pilot project with interest, and hopes it will roll out to other clusters with smaller schools.

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The 11 will share one ASBM, and the excitement is building among heads, who feel it could improve the viability of Norfolk's 37 schools with fewer

than 50 pupils and 151 with fewer than 100.

Jeremy Nicholls, head of Litcham High, said: “We've got a number of very small schools in this cluster, including some with fewer than 40 pupils. The more we can take the strain of non-teaching and learning functions off the primary heads, the more they will be able to devote their time to the children's education.

“The county council wants to see whether we can develop a model that could be rolled out to more clusters with small schools. Potentially it could make them much more viable.”

Ann Beardall, head of Harpley Primary, which has 40 pupils, said: “I'm hoping this will lighten the load. I teach 70pc of the time and then have all the headteacher duties.

“We want a covered canopy and I'm ploughing through quotes and having to deal with people. I would love to be able to pass that on to a business manager. Then I wouldn't have to do the donkey work.”

She added: “Even from a big school's point of view, it is very positive. A head is the lead teacher, but ends up getting more and more out of the loop and dealing with more and more admin.”

The scheme comes at a time when a “reverse baby boom” has led to falling pupil numbers across Norfolk - putting extra pressure on the smallest schools.

It is being run by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL), which helps with training and support for heads. It is expected to save heads up to 30pc of their time.

In the Litcham cluster, the schools are:

Litcham High

Brisley Primary

Harpley Primary

Great Massingham Primary

Weasenham Primary

St Mary's Primary, Beetley

Mileham Primary

Litcham Primary and Litcham Children's Centre

Great Dunham Primary

Beeston Primary

Eight of the schools have fewer than 100 pupils, and can find it difficult to get access to the required financial expertise.

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