North Yorkshire County Council yesterday decided to launch a public consultation on the future maintenance of Foremost School in Darley, nearHarrogate, as part of its bid for the school to be run and managed by an independent provider that can secure high quality education and care for those young people currently on roll.
In order for an independent provider to take up such a contract the local authority needs to consult on ceasing to maintain Foremost as a local authority school in parallel with starting the procurement process.
The consultation will be carried out through to the spring with a final decision being taken in June. The new arrangements would then begin next autumn 2014.
Foremost opened nearly two years ago as a residential special school for boys with behavioural, social and emotional difficulties (BESD). This followed the transfer of Baliol School from its previous location in Sedbergh.
Foremost provides state-of-the-art facilities in terms of teaching areas, sporting and other facilities and residential accommodation and the school has faced a challenging time in making sure that standards of education and care match these facilities.
As previously announced, the county council now believes that provision would be best met through an independent provider with an excellent reputation in this field. Independent providers of the quality being considered often manage similar facilities across the country and are therefore better placed to develop top quality leadership, teaching and learning and economies of scale.
The local authority would, in any new partnership arrangement, then block purchase a number of placements for its own children and young people, including those currently at the school and some others who are currently placed out of county.
County Councillor Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools said: We believe the option being consulted on – for a highly reputable independent provider to manage and run Foremost – would provide a sustainable long term future for the school.
Our priority is for Foremost to offer the highest quality teaching and learning and standards of care and in this way to make best use of its outstanding facilities. Any contract would only be awarded to an independent provider whose existing provision is judged consistently good or outstanding.
Such an arrangement could also benefit the county council financially: the authority would no longer need to subsidise the cost of running the school; it would benefit from the income from any lease and it would negotiate a more favourable rate on the cost of placements for North Yorkshire children who continue to attend the school.
Due to significant recent investment in a county-wide pupil referral service which now has a revenue budget of over £2 million and improving, including outstanding, practice, the county council is also intending to support the needs of more young people through that service in partnership with mainstream schools.
For the present, Foremost is making continued progress to meet the needs of the young people currently on roll. Although the school was placed in special measures in 2013. Ofsted has stated after its most recent monitoring visit, that all minimum care standards have now been met; that pupils are making at least sound and often good progress in lessons and that there have been marked improvements in the teaching of literacy across the curriculum. The support of the local authority has been recognised as positive and the head of care and care team have been commended for their “very strong” practice.
Ofsted also recognised that steps are being taken to address the continuing deficiencies in leadership and management.
The headteacher of Hambleton and Richmondshire PRU, Fiona Dodgson, has returned to Foremost as executive headteacher to provide supervision and mentoring support. She has recently been praised by Ofsted, during an inspection of the PRU, for her clear vision for improvement and for the fact that all pupils there make good or outstanding progress. The deputy head teacher and head of care are sharing day-to-day leadership at Foremost.