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Vision & Action is edited by Alison Closs and produced by Gina Reddie.

Any enquiries about this publication should be directed to the Anti-Bullying Network on 0131 651 6103.


St Joseph's Academy
Grassyards Road
Kilmarnock KA3 7SL
Contacts: Brigid Rooney, HT and Mary Margaret Lucas, AHT
Tel: 01563 526144, Fax: 01563 542418
Email: MaryMargaret.Lucas@ east-ayrshire.gov.uk


Vision & Action is published on an occasional basis to illustrate how schools that have already developed and continue to maintain a positive ethos use this to cope with a particular event or unusual demand made on their school community. We welcome comments, suggestions and offers from schools to share their experience on any relevant topic.

This Vision & Action Case Study is the second in the 2002-2003 session. There have been, and continue to be, many changes in most aspects of education in Scotland. Schools often find addressing these changes extremely demanding yet do usually rise to the challenge. St Joseph's Academy, Kilmarnock and St Conval's High School, Cumnock, merged in 1998, retaining two campuses sixteen miles apart. This was on top of all the other changes that could not be put aside, such as changes to the post-16 curriculum. However, all concerned from East Ayrshire Education Authority and the two schools were determined from the beginning of the merging process that the outcome would be one school community that respected the histories and the local contexts that both schools brought to the merger. Pupils' continued learning and inclusion was prioritised at all times and the positive ethos built up over previous years was drawn on heavily.


Aiming for One Community

Introduction

In October 1998 St Joseph's Academy, Kilmarnock, merged with St Conval's High School, Cumnock, to form a single secondary school retaining the Academy's name, serving as the Roman Catholic secondary school for the whole of East Ayrshire. At the date of merger, there were 176 pupils, 18 teachers and 6 administrative staff in Cumnock and 666 pupils, 50 teachers and 12 administrative staff in Kilmarnock. Now we have 770 pupils, 64 (FT) and 5 (PT) teaching staff and 18 administrative/non-teaching staff in our single school.

Within the structure of the new school there were to be S1-S4 pupils on each campus and S5/S6 students only on the Kilmarnock Campus. As there is a physical distance of over 16 miles between the two campuses (see picture 1) and many youngsters already travelled distances to reach secondary school, clearly the newly formed school faced major hurdles in its aim of creating one community.

This issue had been identified early in the merger process by the Senior Management Team, and as part of the new management structure for the merged school, a new promoted post was created. This Principal Teacher of Guidance (Ethos and Liaison) had a very specific role and responsibility to promote joint pupil activities; social, curricular and extra-curricular.

An additional Assistant Head Teacher post was created, this post holder to be responsible for the day-to-day running of the Cumnock Campus. Over the four and a half years since the merger, two members of the SMT have each spent two years in charge of the Cumnock Campus, the third is now almost one year into his 'reign in office'.

Concerns about our pupils and parents

Prior to the merger date, a number of opportunities had been created for teachers to meet, within their departments and as a whole staff. In addition, the members of the Senior Management Team met with parents on the Cumnock Campus and in the primary schools associated with the former St Conval's.

Once the schools had merged a range of extra curricular activities continued to be offered. Some of these were embraced enthusiastically by the students. Boys were particularly keen to travel between campuses at the end of a long school day to play in one of the many school football teams. Other ventures were less successful in meeting the needs of pupils from both campuses, for example, discos, always a popular item on the school calendar, showed our young people sticking almost exclusively to their own territory, Kilmarnock or Cumnock.

It became clear that if the transition from S4 to S5, and in the following year from S5 to S6, was going to have any chance of successful 'blending', more required to be done to bridge the gap and build one community.

In October 1997, prior to the merger, there had been a 'Dip Inspection' of St Joseph's Academy. As part of the follow-up visit by HMIE, a request was made to spend some time on our Cumnock Campus to speak with staff and students although the Cumnock Campus had not formed part of the original inspection.

The HMIE feedback commented on the lack of confidence some Cumnock students felt at the prospect of being part of a much bigger school. Pupils' fears related not only to the thought of fewer than 200 being 'swamped' by over 600 but also to having to travel a distance of over sixteen miles. This would not only move them from their local environment but, in some cases, from small rural communities to a larger urban community.

A number of issues had also been raised at school council meetings. Because of small numbers, pupils from the Cumnock Campus usually travelled to the Kilmarnock Campus for any whole school/year group activities. This meant that they formed a minority group which was overwhelming for some pupils. Cumnock pupils additionally felt that:

they were always at a disadvantage as they were not as familiar with the Kilmarnock Campus
pupils from the Kilmarnock Campus viewed Cumnock pupils as being from another school as they themselves were rarely on the Cumnock Campus
they wanted to get to know a proportion of their year group well rather than meet the whole cohort
they wanted to act as hosts on their home ground sometimes
simply being brought together did not always work well. The discos were popular, but other activities were regarded as wasted opportunities as pupils did not really interact. They might have sat together at a presentation, for example, but that did not necessarily allow them to develop friendships.

Picture 1: Kilmarnock (top) and Cumnock (bottom) campuses. There is a 32 mile round journey between the two campuses of the school.

 

 

 

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