Stoke & Staffordshire

More pupils at school with 'part time' scheme

A rural primary school where about half of the pupils are part time has enjoyed a four-fold increase in numbers.

Hollinsclough Church of England primary started its "flexible school options" in the Staffordshire hamlet last summer.

Head Janette Mountford-Lees said it was making the school "more viable" after pupil numbers rose from five to 23.

The school, which serves a parish population of 150, has attracted pupils from Greater Manchester and Yorkshire.

'With the times'

The Diocese of Lichfield said, like many rural schools, Hollinsclough faced "a continual battle to balance the competing demands of serving the needs of local children with providing value for money for the taxpayer".

The part-time pupils attend on agreed days, with their formal school education being supplemented by home teaching.

In another option, home-schooled children can attend a "learning hub" at least once a fortnight with parents or carers for an educational workshop.

The head said she strongly believed that education provision "should move with the times".

Image caption The school said a charity has provided financial assistance related to the scheme

"[We] understand that parents are often choosing to educate their children at home for a variety of reasons.

"But many would still like support from the school system.

"Our more flexible approach to education encourages and supports those parents and children who have made this choice."

One parent, Clare Ash, from Waterhouses, Staffordshire, said her children go to the school about once a week.

She added: "This lot [her children] love it, because it's a chance to be with other children for a whole day."

Asked about the advantages of not being educated entirely at home, another parent, Debbie Dean, said: "It's been easier to do some activities.

"We do a lot at home, but it's been easier to come to one central place and do the activities all together instead of going out to different places to do different things all the time."

The school said a new system started last summer involving the CfBT Education Trust charity, which has provided financial assistance.

Ms Mountford-Lees said: "All the children are different ages. They're all on individual education plans. They're all doing their own work.

"So it's a continuation of what we'd already started, that everybody was working at their own stage."

In terms of whether it could be a blueprint to save other rural schools, Conservative-controlled Staffordshire County Council said this was "difficult to tell at the moment".

Deputy leader and cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Ian Parry said: "It is an option and it's very much down to what parents want.

"We are looking at it, but we can't say it's going to be the solution for all rural education, because it's a complex issue at the moment."

The Diocese of Lichfield said the school was "developing an innovative approach to education which could well be a model for small schools in rural areas to achieve longer-term sustainability".

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