Tuesday 7th June 2016
Mrs Tuffnell has made the decision to retire at the end of this term. She has taught at Ysgol Trefonnen since 1987 – wow! During this time, she has shown an immense commitment to pupil development, Welsh language development, creative improvements and the eisteddfod movement. She will be a huge loss to the daily life here at Ysgol Trefonnen – we all wish her the very best with her retirement and hope she will come back to visit us regularly. Naturally this news will mean that there are many parents/carers asking ‘What will happen next year? Who will teach…?’ Please read on…
This year, our school budget has been significantly hit by the cuts announced from Powys County Council. Despite such enormous cuts, we (myself and the Governing Body) are expected to agree a licenced budget (one that is in the ‘black’); deficit budgets (those in the ‘red’) are not approved by the Council. To ensure our budget can manage the cuts put upon us and remain in the ‘black’, we have to make some significant changes to the way we intend to work on a daily basis.
For a few years, we have operated with four classes in each stream – this has been a great structure. However, our current pupil numbers within the Welsh stream alongside the reduced overall school budget, mean that we can no longer work in this way. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision not to replace Mrs Tuffnell. From September 2016 onwards, we will be working with three classes in our Welsh stream and four in our English stream. As a staff, we will be spending much time over the next few weeks discussing and arranging which pupils will be in which class; we will then share this information with you on Friday 24th June 2016. Please bear with us until the 24th June whilst we complete this task.
The Welsh stream has less than 90 pupils within it currently; were we not to take action now, two Welsh classes (from the current structure of four) would be below 20 pupils in September and that is not viable given the budget constraints we currently face; no English stream class is that low. Our English stream will remain with four classes as there are more than 112 pupils within it. With less than 90 pupils educated in our Welsh stream, we will aim to ensure Welsh stream class sizes in September are kept close to 30 or below.
There are a number of factors that we, as staff, need to consider in order to ensure each new class in September is well balanced and able to function effectively in the interests of the children. These factors include: age (date of births), gender, siblings, Additional Learning Needs, the number of children in each year group and our knowledge of which combinations of children are likely to work well together or not so well in terms of learning. We will do our best to consider all factors; however, in completing this difficult task, we may have to make a ‘best fit’ decision. We cannot for example guarantee that siblings aren’t put together in a class; there are a number of examples where this is the case already in our school. What we must consider is whether or not being together with a sibling could impact on a child’s learning progress.
We may find that, in maintaining class sizes at 30 or as close to, some year groups (due to the total number of pupils) may have to be split; for example, if we had 10 Year 6 pupils, 10 Year 5 pupils and 20 Year 4 pupils, then we could not make one class of 40; the Year 4 group in this case would need to be split. This may also be the case with some established friendship groups; some groups may require a split owing to the distractions they cause one another in class! Our view is that the learning needs in the classroom will take precedent over friendship needs in some instances.
It is important to note that we have operated in this way at Ysgol Trefonnen before and with much success; thus, we can do so again. However, this entire position may change in the future should our pupil numbers increase again or indeed the finances allow us to include a fourth Welsh stream class.
Over the next few weeks, Mrs Cornelius (Additional Learning Needs Coordinator) and myself will be allocating our Learning Support Assistants across the school to ensure we meet the needs of our children (we do this task at this time every year) – with one less Welsh stream class to consider, the LSAs will be deployed to the classes where a need exists. Children who currently need support to achieve their best will continue to access that support. Please can I assure you all that we will be monitoring and reviewing this structure carefully over the next academic year.
We understand that the news I am sharing today is unexpected. Unfortunately, we only received the full budget picture recently from Powys and yet are required to provide a solution to their cuts instantly. Please be assured that the staff at Ysgol Trefonnen will spend time considering the class lists for September and this, as I noted earlier, will be shared with you on Friday 24th June 2016. Following this date, we will be running a number of transition sessions to ensure all children can achieve their very best here at Ysgol Trefonnen in a positive learning environment.