The West Wight schools consultation has ended up becoming incredibly divisive as Yarmouth and Freshwater both battle to retain their primary school.
The Isle of Wight council’s preferred option to tackle school places is to move pupils from All Saints’ Primary in Freshwater to Yarmouth Primary. Meanwhile the school on the All Saints’ site would be expanded and then all pupils, including Yarmouth Primary, would be moved back to the Freshwater site.
IWC Chairman sharing inaccurate information
Yarmouth Mayor, Steve Cowley, has been in touch pointing out that Cllr George Cameron (the current Chairman of the Isle of Wight council and Freshwater North councillor) is reported in the minutes of the 21st May Freshwater Parish Council meeting as saying “that Yarmouth were accepting the proposal”.
Mr Cowley told OnTheWight,
“Yarmouth Town Council and Shalfleet Parish Council both support keeping Yarmouth School in Yarmouth because the current preferred option is too disruptive of local children’s education, does not address the issue of surplus school places and is not value for money.”
1,882 strong petition
Earlier this week a petition with 1,882 signatures to keep the primary school in Yarmouth was presented at County Hall.
“There are very sound educational reasons for opposing the latest preferred option and going back to the first preferred option.”
Cabinet member denies sharing inaccurate information
Mr Cowley, who is also the grandparent of pupils at Yarmouth Primary, added that Cllr Paul Brading, the cabinet member responsible for education, also repeated the inaccuracy on BBC Radio Solent at least once, possibly twice.
Cllr Brading disputes this claim, telling OnTheWight he said nothing about the town council.
Cowley: Most parents choose ‘Good’ schools
Mr Cowley said,
“If you look at the response from the Governors of the Federation of Shalfleet Yarmouth Schools, you will see that the parents of the children from Freshwater, currently sending their children to Yarmouth Primary School, also oppose the current plan.
“Most parents of Freshwater pupils do not choose to send their children to All Saints; more choose to send their children to the Ofsted rated ‘Good’ schools of St Saviours, Shalfleet and Yarmouth.”
Brading: “All children deserve to be taught in a Good school”
Cllr Brading told OnTheWight,
“I have now completed two consultations on the issue of the serious excess in Primary School places in the West Wight. Both consultations have been very extensively completed by residents right across West Wight, and I am very grateful for all the responses.
“The second consultation is now being evaluated pending a decision on the way forward in line with the stated timeframes.
“In making the decision I will have listened to all the educational points raised, and doing what is right for the children, both now, and looking ahead at the long term sustainability of Primary Education in the west Wight.
“All children deserve to be taught in a Good school, giving them the best start in life, and that’s what I intend to do.”
A positive campaign
Mr Cowley went on to say,
“The parents of Yarmouth pupils and the Community of Yarmouth have run a very positive campaign to secure the future of Yarmouth School.
“They have based the campaign on sound educational grounds and a positive analysis of the number of school places, demonstrating that a large school in Freshwater will have a negative effect on all three ‘Good’ Schools. Small schools have an excellent record educationally and in delivering a caring, enriching environment.
“With the predicted school population drop, those three ‘good’ schools will fulfil future need.”
Cowley: ‘Preferred option’ goes against leader’s own policy
Mr Cowley finished by saying,
“The Council Leader, Dave Stewart, has stated that it is his policy to have all Isle of Wight children in ‘good schools’.
“This latest ‘preferred option’ goes against his own policy, as transplanting a ‘good’ school against the wishes of parents, Governors and the local community is likely to damage its outcomes.”
The ‘end of consultation report’ is due to head to the July Cabinet meeting.
You can read the submission by The Federation of the Church Schools of Shalfleet and Yarmouth to Cllr Brading below. Click on the full screen icon to see larger version.
9.20am 15/6 – Update from Cllr Brading added, denying claim he made inaccurate comments about Yarmouth Town Council on Radio Solent and quote from him.