Forced school merger would be disastrous

The headteacher of one of Britain’s top grammar schools has warned of a possible “Armageddon” if it is forced to merge with the local academy.

Lincolnshire County Council has revealed it is worried about the future of Caistor Grammar School and Caistor Yarborough Academy after massive government funding cuts.

The schools - which both have fewer than 700 pupils - have been put on the county council’s list of ‘vulnerable’ schools, raising questions of a possible merger.

Small schools rely on a £390,000 payment from the local authority.

But in just two years time, the amount of money a school receives will depend on how many pupils it has - and no school can get more than £200,000.

Caistor Yarborough Academy headteacher Jeremy Newnham has said he would not rule out a merger, but Caistor Grammar School headteacher Roger Hale said that would be “Armageddon”.

Mr Hale - whose GCSE and A-level results regularly outperform private, fee-paying schools - said: “There’s absolutely no question of us drawing up plans for some sort of Armageddon. I don’t think it will happen.

“If Armageddon happens we’re talking about the destruction of education as we know it.

“Schools are not going to close or merge, it’s not going to happen.

“In the countryside, like Lincolnshire, the selective system and small schools are very necessary and serve their local communities very well. We’re one of the most successful schools in the country.”

Caistor Yarborough Academy has a high percentage of pupils on free school meals and just 49 per cent of GCSE pupils achieve five A* to C grades, including English and maths. Caistor Grammar School is the best in Lincolnshire with 100 per cent.

Worryingly, elsewhere in the country, schools have already been forced to merge due to the funding reforms - and more look set to follow.

But the county council has vowed to lobby the government to change its rules.

Mr Hale said: “I’m confident the DFE (department for education) will realise their mistake.

“We’ve got to fight to persuade them to reconsider.”

Lincolnshire County Council executive councillor for children’s services Patricia Bradwell said: “The government’s funding reforms are a concern for small secondary schools in the medium term.

“We will continue to lobby ministers to alter aspects of their funding reforms to take the needs of small secondary schools into account.

“All schools are protected from funding changes for the next two years but beyond that is where the concerns lie.

“Lincolnshire is a rural county and has many small schools - we will do all we can to protect rural schools which are at the heart of their communities.”

Caistor Yarborough Academy and Caistor Grammar School are among 22 schools on Lincolnshire County Council’s vulnerable list.

Mr Newnham said Caistor Yarborough Academy was in a “good position” and the funding reforms would would mean his school would get additional cash for its large number of pupils that receive free school meals.

When asked about a merger with Caistor Grammar School, Mr Newnham said: “We’d never rule anything out. Whether it would ever happen would depend on how many cuts they make.

“Small schools obviously have to keep an eye on this.

“I don’t believe the local authority would remove the selective system. But I think it’s an obvious way to save money, to have larger, non-selective schools.”