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Academy trust promises ‘bright future’ ahead for primary school

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ALOERIC Primary School has offered reassurance to concerned parents regarding recent changes, promising ‘huge plans’ and a ‘bright future’ for the school.

Recent changes at the school, carried out by Pickwick Academy Trust who have managed the school since 2017, include cuts to swimming provision and residential trips, staff redundancies, and money spent on new dining tables and security fencing.

One concerned parent told Melksham News, “The academy is stripping the school of its assets like swimming and residential trips, reducing them to a bare minimum, whilst spending thousands on things like dining tables and new fencing.”

However, Pickwick Academy Trust has explained that the ‘unsettling’ changes have been necessary for Aloeric to ‘balance its budget’ and to improve fire protection and security systems at the school to meet safeguarding regulations.

A letter to parents from one of the academy’s trustees, and ex-chair of governors at Aloeric, David Willis, explained that they had been left with no option regarding staffing cuts, as over 80% of the school’s budget was being spent on staffing costs.

Current CEO of Pickwick Academy Trust, Fiona Allen, who is leaving at the end of the summer term, told Melksham News, “It is disappointing to hear feedback like this – we are working very hard to improve the school. I want to reassure parents that these changes are taking place for the right reasons and that we can all look forward to a bright future at Aloeric.

“Swimming is still going ahead at the school. But what has happened is that the provision has now been aligned with what is offered in the other three schools in the academy. Aloeric students were swimming all year round, which is not the statutory requirement – the budget could not cover non-payments by parents, it was causing the school to go into deficit.

“The same thing has happened with residential trips – they are still going ahead for year 6 students and another year. But what the school was doing was unsustainable. The shortfall from parents was over £12,000. We had to streamline, like the other schools in the academy. We could not continue to afford to subsidise residential trips. The children now get the same access as other schools in the area. This is a change, so I do understand why some parents might be upset by this.”

Regarding the recent spend on security at the school and new dining tables, Fiona explained, “This was really tricky – the school was not secure, anybody could have walked in. The front gates and the main door were not secure. We knew it was wrong, and because of safeguarding regulations we had to take action, otherwise we would have been in breach of the law.

“Money for the new dining tables and fencing, which will be installed in the summer, came from the education secretary Damian Hinds’ ‘little extras’ – a one-off capital funding boost for schools  in last year’s budget – this could only be spent on capital.

“We were given £6,000-£7,000. We would have loved to have bought other things, but it had to spent on capital. One thing that was really poor was the dining room, there were not enough tables – so we purchased new tables. The children absolutely love them. As for the new fencing, we do not apologise for making the school secure.

“We understand why all these changes have raised concerns, but we had to address the deficit budget and make sure the school was safe – it is a big job. Our primary objective is to give the children a good education and keep them safe. We have huge plans for the school. It’s a fantastic school and we are incredibly proud of all the children and staff.”

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