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Small schools, big issue? Exploring the future for small schools in rural and coastal England

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BERA SIG for Educational Effectiveness and Improvement, in partnership with Marjon University Cornwall, the National Association of Small Schools and the Diocese of Truro, invites school leaders, educational researchers and interested stakeholders to a twilight online event on ‘Small schools, big issue? Exploring the future for small schools in England.’

Small schools have been championed for the value they bring to their typically rural/coastal communities. The future of small schools in England is in question due to policy changes and austerity for public services funding (the National Funding Formula not offering the significant increases in funding needed by small schools). Some Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs) tried to set a minimum pupil number for schools to remain viable and run at an ‘acceptable cost’.

In 2016, the White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere’ was clear that small schools must come together in formal collaborations, preferably MATs, in order to survive. However, the financial challenges of small rural schools can make them unattractive for academy chains or multi-academy trusts (MATs).

There is no nationally agreed definition of what constitutes a small school, with categories ranging from fewer than 210 pupils on roll to fewer than 101. Research on small schools has also been limited since 2000, with a need evident for more large scale, peer reviewed and funded investigations. This conference will explore the future for small schools and attempt to establish a manifesto to influence thinking about the difference small schools make to education in England.

16.00 BERA introduction video 
16.05 Chair welcome and introductions
16.10  The Education Inspection Framework and small schools
Prof Daniel Muijs, Dean, School of Education and Society at Academica University of Applied Sciences
16.30 Understanding small schools in rural and coastal communities
Prof Carl Bagley and Prof Sonia Blandford, Queens University Belfast and CEO of Achievement for All
16.50 The Rural Schools Network Project
Mr Andy Wolf, Deputy Director of the Church of England Education
17.10 Small schools and education policy in England
Prof Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Plymouth Marjon University/Marjon University Cornwall
17.30 Developing a small schools manifesto
Dr Cath Gristy and Mr Neil Short, University of Plymouth and Director of the National Association of Small School
17.50 Chair – Plenary – next steps 
18.00 Close of webinar

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Profile picture of Tanya Ovenden-Hope
Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Professor

Professor of Education & Dean at Plymouth Marjon University

Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope is Provost and Professor of Education at Plymouth Marjon University. In 2018 she developed and opened Marjon University Cornwall based in Truro, which she leads. Tanya is a committed and enthusiastic educationalist...

Profile picture of Daniel Muijs
Daniel Muijs, Professor

Professor at Queen's University Belfast

Daniel Muijs is Head of the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work and Professor of Education at Queen’s University Belfast. He is an acknowledged expert in the fields of educational and teacher effectiveness, school improvement...

Carl Bagley, Professor

Head of School, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen's University Belfast

Professor Carl Bagley is Head of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast where he holds a Chair in Educational Sociology. He studied for a BSc (Hons) in Sociology and Politics at the University of Bradford...

Cath Gristy, Dr

Lecturer at Plymouth University

I have been a secondary school science teacher and worked in special needs and pupil referal unit schooling. My doctoral thesis, Life on the edge: the role played by school in the lives of young people from a rural community in the South West of...

Neil Short, Mr

Chair of National Association of Small Schools (NASS) at National Association of Small Schools

Neil Short began his teaching in 1968 and his career in schools included three headships, the first of which was in a small school. In 2000 he began work as a consultant in a wide range of settings including programmes for the National College...

Profile picture of Andy Wolfe
Andy Wolfe

Director of Education at Church of England

Andy oversees the programmes, networks and research of the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership – working with thousands of school leaders across the UK. He is committed to combining rich theological...

Sonia Blandford, Professor

Professor of Social Mobility at Plymouth Marjon University

Professor Sonia Blandford is one of the country’s foremost experts on social mobility and author of the influential publication: ‘Born to Fail?: Social Mobility and the Working Class’. Sonia is visiting professor of education at UCL...

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