New village school combines infants and juniors under one umbrella

PUBLISHED: 13:59 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 14:16 23 April 2018

MP for Harpenden and Hitchin Bim Afolami and Redbourn Primary School pupils plant a tree at the opening of the new school. Picture: DANNY LOO

MP for Harpenden and Hitchin Bim Afolami and Redbourn Primary School pupils plant a tree at the opening of the new school. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

The oldest and youngest pupil from Redbourn’s new primary school opened the establishment in front of an audience of schoolmates, dignitaries and teachers.

Redbourn Primary School was created by closing the village’s infant school and extending the age range of the junior school to three to 11 years, meaning pupils will not have to apply for the juniors once they finish at the infants.

Before the ribbon was undone by the oldest and youngest pupils Amy and Jake, there were speeches by the governors, the new headteacher Sarah Hinchliffe, and the village’s MP Bim Afolami.

Mr Afolami told the pupils: “This is really about you. You will hear lots from lots of people who will be very concerned about how good your reading and writing is, and that is really important, but what is just as important, if not more so, is being a good person, treating people properly, asking questions, being honest and if you do that with your teachers and everybody here, you will be fine and the rest of your life will work well.

“What you will learn at this school in terms of being young adults is really what I get when I speak to anyone from this school, so I know you guys are in amazing hands.”

Redbourn Primary School head teacher Sarah Hinchliffe. Picture: DANNY LOORedbourn Primary School head teacher Sarah Hinchliffe. Picture: DANNY LOO

Afterwards he added: “What is important is supporting the professionals and I have been in touch with primary schools [in my constituency] and I’m looking forward to meeting Mrs Hinchliffe to see what she needs.

“She has got the team and the skills, but there are obviously ways I can help and I look forward to doing so.”

Mrs Hinchliffe said in her speech: “I am really luck to be in this school. Children, you are really fortunate to come to this school. I am looking forward to taking the school on the next step of its journey.”

After the ceremony, she added: “At the moment I’m just learning it. I’m trying to learn which things to do to support the school. So the first step is to watch and learn how they are doing things and try to bring it all together into one school.

Redbourn Primary School chair of governors Melanie Wooding-Jones welcomes guests at the opening of the new Redbourn Primary School. Picture: DANNY LOORedbourn Primary School chair of governors Melanie Wooding-Jones welcomes guests at the opening of the new Redbourn Primary School. Picture: DANNY LOO

“We will be using all the strengths we have in the school and it’s really exciting. All the parents wanted it. They already said it was one school.”

She was previously a headteacher at St Michael’s Primary School next to Verulamium Park in St Albans, and has also worked as a consultant for both Redbourn infant and junior schools, helping them improve performance.

It is hoped the amalgamation will improve the schools’ financial stability and allow them to avoid duplicating services, becoming more efficient.

While Redbourn Infants and Nursery School was rated ‘oustanding’ by Ofsted in 2015, the Junior School was rated as ‘requires improvement’ in March this year, due to staff turnover, variation in the quality of teaching, more able pupils not being sufficiently challenged, and pupils not being sure of their targets.

MP for Harpenden and Hitchin Bim Afolami and Redbourn Primary School pupils plant a tree at the opening of the new school. Picture: DANNY LOOMP for Harpenden and Hitchin Bim Afolami and Redbourn Primary School pupils plant a tree at the opening of the new school. Picture: DANNY LOO

But the new leadership team was praised for bringing about rapid improvement.

School governor Graham Lane said: “This move was hugely important. It was a challenge and obviously there will be issues going forward as one school.

“But children will know all of the teachers so it will be much easier for them to transition. It’s a positive step all round.”

The school’s proposal to amalgamate was opened for consultation last summer.

A Herts County Council letter said the infant school governors were running a ‘junior staff first recruitment protocol’, which intended to minimise the risk to staff at the junior school.

They anticipated retaining the majority of existing staff and hoped other staff at risk of redundancy will be able to find alternative posts and staff from the infants and nursery school will not be affected by the expansion.

Chair of governors Melanie Wooding-Jones said: “The consistency and continuity of education between schools will help its functioning, especially with a strong head, it will be fantastic for the kids.”

She said the most challenging part about setting up the new school was the red tape: “We had to go through consultation, which was a lengthy process. But it means when we get there it feels amazing. It already feels like one school.”

See www.redbourninfants.herts.sch.uk/Amalgamation

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