St Teresa's Catholic Infant And Nursery School in Birkdale in Southport

A Southport school where parents are “overwhelming in their praise” has won a campaign to stay open. 

St Teresa’s Catholic Infant And Nursery School, on Everton Road in Birkdale, had faced the possibility of closure and the related expansion of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School in Birkdale after a recommendation by Sefton Council. 

But after being impressed by plans to raise funds to increase the school budget, council officers are backing proposals for the school to continue operating. 

St Teresa’s was given a Good rating in its last Ofsted inspection, with Lead Inspector Sheila Iwaskow saying that teaching staff had “improved the school beyond recognition”.

Birkdale councillor John Pugh said: “Credit must be given to the council leadership for listening and to the extremely talented governing body who have fought the school’s corner.

“There is much that needs still to be done but I genuinely believe with the right leadership we will witness the relaunch of a school which has had the sword of Damocles hanging over it.

“Many of its past problems have been due to sheer bad luck but its future depends on proving it can thrive at a time when so many children’s education has been blighted by education and where smaller schools have a real part in ensuring that no-one that is left behind as a result.

“That has been the St Teresa’s tradition and we must fight to keep it going.”

In their report, Sefton Council said: “The school has seen declining numbers in recent years leading to reduced funding. Without further changes to funding or actions to address an overspend position, the school was expected to have a cumulative deficit of £120,000 by the end of 2020/21 and £200,000 by the end of 2021/22.

“At the Cabinet meeting held on 5th March 2020, Members agreed to allow St Teresa’s Governors’ further time to provide an alternative financial proposal based on a half form entry from Reception to Year 2.

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“The Governing Body has submitted hope to further mitigate the existing deficit through additional fundraising and rent of space to third party organisations outside of term time and school hours. The Governors’ proposal is predicated on future Reception numbers being at capacity of 15 each year from September 2021 and the school leasing part of the building to a private provider to deliver Two-Year-old funded childcare provision, which will provide a letting income to the school.”

“It is acknowledged that concerns about the school closing may have further exacerbated the drop in pupil numbers and it is hoped that through the Governing Body’s promotion of the school that pupil numbers will increase.

“St Teresa’s Governing Body has appealed to Cabinet to be allowed to continue and have given assurances that they can make their plan work.”

As at January 2020 School Census there were 47 pupils in the main school and 11 in the nursery.

The issue will come before Sefton Council’s Cabinet meeting next Thursday (July 30). 

Councillors have been given recommendations to: give the Governing Body the opportunity to implement their plans for St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School; cease the statutory process approved by Cabinet on 3 October 2019; Sefton Council and the Arch Diocese continue to work with the Governing Body to ensure that proposed plans are implemented and the school can achieve financial sustainability. 

A Sefton Council spokesperson said: “The Council has always been keen to explore every avenue and, recognising the impact of Covid-19, would want to give the school more time to work on plans for them to remain open and achieve the best outcomes.

“The school’s Governing Body has given the Council assurances that they are determined to make their plan work.

“If the report is approved at the Cabinet Meeting on 30th July, and the school remains open, Sefton Council will continue to support the school governors and leadership to monitor the school’s financial position and progress against the Governing Body’s plan which would ensure the sustainability of the school for the future.”

St Teresa’s school is rated as a Good School by Ofsted.

In the inspection, Ofsted Lead Inspector Sheila Iwaskow said: “Since the last inspection, the headteacher, ably supported by her assistant headteacher and team of new teaching staff, has improved the school beyond recognition. Through their sheer hard work and determination, the school no longer has serious weaknesses and is now good.

“Parents and carers are overwhelming in their praise of all aspects of the school’s work. Parents typically commented, ‘The headteacher has transformed this school, it’s like a different place.’

“Mutual respect and strong relationships are characteristics of this hard-working school. A real sense of teamwork among the teachers and shared vision pervades St Teresa’s.”

Do you have a story for Stand Up For Southport? Please message Andrew Brown via Facebook here or email me at: mediaandrewbrown@gmail.com

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