Members of political groups on the Isle of Wight share their views about the ongoing saga at Christ the King College over debt levels and who should be held responsible.
Indies: Who will be held accountable?
On behalf of the Island Independent councillors, Cllr Debbie Andre told OnTheWight,
“The revelation that Christ the King College has accrued an unsustainable debt of £2.7m raises questions on what plan will be forthcoming to establish a financial rescue package to take the school forward on a secure financial footing and who will be held accountable and I will work with all parties to have those questions answered.
“This announcement raises serious concerns over how individual schools use their autonomy to manage their finances.
“The school claim that they had the endorsement of the IOW Council chief executive, Steve Beynon, at the time of entering into the agreement on 14th February 2013 and are asking the council to accept joint responsibility for the debt.
“Questions need to be asked to establish who was responsible for negotiating, agreeing and signing such a lease that was clearly not fit for purpose.”
Indies: What’s the rescue plan?
Cllr Andre went on to say,
“The school have yet to give details of their plan to address this financial situation, although they state that they are working on a solution that does not take money away from teaching resources.
“One thing is clear, this debt is unsustainable and new funding sources need to be identified to ensure the continuance of quality education at Christ the King College.”
Greens: Funding must not be taken from other schools
Vix Lowthion, IW Green, teacher and national education spokesperson said,
“Council tax payers should not be liable for CTK building a Sixth Form when we already had more than enough spaces for Island students.
“Since CTK built this, IW College F6rm and now Sandown Bay Academy 6th form have been forced to close/ threatened with closure.
“For CTK to spend multi millions when we had over capacity must be their decision. Funding must not be taken from other Island schools for their commitment.”
Labour: “An unedifying shambles”
Isle of Wight Labour’s parliamentary candidate, Julian Critchley, told OnTheWight,
“It’s an unedifying shambles, isn’t it? This situation is the result of two separate Tory chickens coming home to roost. On the one hand, it’s clearly a consequence of the seven years of real-terms funding cuts which have left all schools in increasingly desperate circumstances.
“However, it is also a consequence of Michael Gove’s stealth-privatisation of the state school system which saw Local Education Authorities stripped of the ability to plan school place provision effectively.
“The result is that a school and LEA who should be working in partnership along with all other Island schools to provide an excellent education for all our young people, are instead fighting publicly over who is to blame for a difficult financial situation which takes little account of the best interests of sixth-form provision across the Island.”
Labour: Interests of all Island students need protecting
He went on to say,
“In the short-term, I hope both parties can find a route through which best protects the interests of all students on the Island.
“In the longer term, the only answer to the problems at Christ the King, at Sandown Bay, and in our SEN services and beyond, is to restore state education to the heart of national and local policy as a properly-funded, properly co-ordinated and accountable National Education Service. The next Labour Government will do just that.”
Lib Dems: Long-term education at risk?
Nick Belfitt, the parliamentary candidate for the Isle of Wight Liberal Democrats, told OnTheWight,
“It’s disappointing to see continued problems with schools on the Island. When budgets are being squeezed so much it means that we feel the impact of problems like this much harder.
“While there seems to be a deeper personal organisational and communication issue with the council and Christ the King College, it seems to be following the same unworkable attitude from the current council when managing further education. The Conservative council seem to want to put long-term education at risk.
“We have already had one key sixth form close on the Island and now another is under threat. Whether this is a mismanagement issue or not, we need to think in the end about young people and whether they are getting a full proper education.
“The priority now needs to be not who is to blame, but how do we sort the best issue for students.”