‘This is not the right time’ for school merger plan

The plug has been pulled on a merger between one of Exmouth’s best performing schools and one of the most improved, following a consultation.

Plans for a federation between Withycombe Raleigh and Littleham C of E primary schools, with one headteacher and one board of governors, depended on the consultation, that included parents which concluded on April 17.

Schools watchdog Ofsted rates the 450-strong Withycombe school as outstanding, while under the stewardship of Duncan Nelmes and his predecessor Penny Hickman, the 82-pupil Littleham school has gone from strength-to-strength.

Governors of both schools had said that a formal relationship, which would have seen Withycombe head Stephen Powley as executive headteacher, and Duncan Nelmes as director of learning at Littleham, would improve pupil’s education still further.

Each school said the governors would have retained their values and admissions procedures, while the combined facilities could increase the numbers of school-based activities and both schools would have been able to tap into the experience, skills and knowledge of a wider pool of teachers.

However, Withycombe governor, Malcolm Mitchell, said not all responses supported the move: “It’s like anything; people only tend to write in if they are against something.”

He added that, with most primary schools in Exmouth looking to increase their numbers in the short to medium term, now was not the right time.

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A letter from the governors said they had listened very carefully to the parents, school community and the wider community during the consultation period.

Steve Powley said: “We have concluded that this is not the right time for our schools to enter full federation together.

“We will continue to strengthen the collaboration between our schools.”

Duncan Nelmes said: “We recognise that there are benefits to working closely with other schools, but recognise that it is not appropriate to proceed with federation after the consultation with the school community

“I would like to thank all those involved for their time and energy throughout the process. We look forward to working closely with Withycombe on a range of exciting learning projects in the future.”