SMALL rural schools in Gloucestershire will be closely monitoring the success or failure of a new formal partnership between two Cotswold primary schools.

Since September Cirencester Primary School headteacher Graham Horton has also been in charge at Down Ampney Primary.

In his new role as ‘super head’ of both schools, Mr Horton has been dividing his time between the two since September. Staff from both schools are now able to swap expertise and students will able to access new resources.

Mr Horton’s vision is of schools in Gloucestershire working more strategically together, sharing knowledge and resources. The large Cirencester school already shares a business manager and a secretary with North Cerney Primary School.

“I want this to be about keeping local schools for local children,” said Mr Horton. “I passionately believe that sharing resources will keep small schools in Gloucestershire sustainable.”

The approach by Down Ampney school which has just 38 pupils on the register, after their headteacher left in the summer has given him a chance to see if the model can work.

He admitted that there were worries on both sides which needed addressing. “Pupils at Cirencester Primary were worried that I was not going to be their head anymore. It has been important to be visible at both schools,” explained Mr Horton. “The largest concern was that this needed to be a symbiotic relationship. It could not feel like a big school taking over a little school.”

Down Ampney still has its own governing body and this is described as a collaboration rather than a federation.

Making budgets work is a huge challenge for smaller schools and recruiting headteachers has also become more difficult. Deborah Lanham-Rees, Down Ampney School business manager said: “When the school found itself in a position that it needed to recruit a headteacher, the governors took the bold decision to look instead for a collaborative partner and employ the services of an executive headteacher. We were delighted when Graham Horton and Cirencester Primary School stepped forward.

“We believe that not only have we secured the sustainability of Down Ampney Primary School in the long term, but also added value to the education and experiences we can offer our pupils.”

Several other schools are watching with interest and the diocese representing the many church schools is putting together a working party to look at the ideas.