Richard shares this latest news on behalf of West and Central Wight branch Labour Party. Ed
The West and Central branch of the Labour Party strongly disagrees with the closure of any school in the West Wight area, but we are especially opposed to the closure of All Saints’ Primary School.
We found the Delegated Decision Report flawed as is the ‘consultation’ which exists in name only. Freshwater is the largest village on the Island and, according to the Island Plan is due to become even larger.
Island Plan ‘lives in hope’
The report entirely ignores this Plan which indicates a substantial number of new homes to be built over the next 15 years in Freshwater and the surrounding areas.
It ‘lives in hope’ that this will not increase pressure on school places. Indeed the report is short on facts but long on supposition.
If this Plan has no significance in this debate, then a great deal of money has been wasted – money which could have been spent on, say, education.
Most parents walk children to school
In addition, the school is situated centrally so that most parents are able to walk their children to school safely along well-lit roads with wide pavements.
The Labour Party takes seriously the idea that Primary school children should, whenever possible, be able to walk to school for both health and environmental reasons – this principle is widely accepted in 2019, but not, apparently, by this Council.
Regarding the school’s academic achievement, the league table results (unacknowledged in the proposal) show that in 2018 All Saints’ was ninth out of all the Island primary schools in reading – regarded by most educationists as the key skill. In writing and mathematics the school is average.
Far from ‘below average’
Since they have recently appointed an enthusiastic and successful maths specialist, that area can be expected to show improvement in due course.
The school is therefore far from ‘below average’ as has been suggested by the carefully chosen and out-of-context quotes from the Ofsted report.
Subjective and skewed
It is highly subjective and skewed to support a specious argument. As everyone knows all school performances vary over time, what is a ‘good’ school one year becomes a ‘poor one’ later and so on.
This is such a weak argument for closure and it should be disregarded.
Why St Saviours is not suitable alternative
It is suggested in the proposal that St. Saviours is a suitable alternative.
This is untrue because:
- It is a Roman Catholic school. Not all of these parents would be comfortable with this.
- All Saints is an Anglican school and St Saviours a Catholic one. St Saviours priority for admission is for the children of Catholics. It is not obliged to give equal priority to other faiths or those of no faith.
- It is a much smaller site and would need to lose even more of its already comparatively limited playground space in order to accommodate extra classrooms. It was also clear at the meeting held there on 1st March 2019 that class sizes would probably have to exceed 30 if all the All Saints pupils were to be accommodated.
- It is not easily accessible by foot:
- a) the walk from the centre of Freshwater to St Saviours takes a good 30 minutes for an adult moving at a reasonable pace.
- b) Small children do not walk at an adult pace.
- c) The roads are mostly narrow lanes without pavements but with traffic. They are also unlit, which is clearly an issue in the winter. There are very realistic risks of a child being hit by a car on a blind bend.
Decision fails DfE Guidance
Paragraph 34 of the report looks at the statutory guidance issued by the DfE.
The proposed decision to close All Saints fails this guidance in every respect. This is important and alone would render the decision unsafe.
East of Yar schools only other alternative
But what is the alternative for parents who do not want their children to attend a Roman Catholic school?
The non-denominational Weston school has now been closed, so the only alternatives are Yarmouth and Shalfleet Church of England primary schools.
Discriminating less wealthy families
These schools are obviously accessible by car, but not all of the All Saints parents have cars and there is no mention in the proposal of laying on a free bus.
Thus, the wealthier parent has a range of options while the parent with fewer resources is being offered only one inappropriate choice. This is contrary to Labour Party policy, but not apparently, to the policy of this Council.
Value of local school misunderstood
What both Hampshire and the Council have failed to really understand is the value of a local village school and the importance to the local community.
Investment, not closure, is needed to attain strong leadership and resources for the school to flourish and for standards to continue to improve.