'Daft' Closure is Act of Vandalism

This article by Louise Bellicoso appeared in the Buxton Advertiser on 24 May.

CLOSING Combs Infant School would be "an act of vandalism" to help the County Council meet performance targets, according to a Derbyshire County Councillor.

Cllr Barrie Taylor, who represents the Whaley and Blackbrook ward, which covers Combs, made the comments at a public meeting held at the school on Tuesday night.

More than 200 people attended the meeting, including Cllr Alan Charles, county council cabinet member for schools, who had earlier in the day met pupils, staff and governors.

Cllr Taylor said: "I don't think this is really about money. I think this is very much about performance indicators.

"I would like to ask Alan Charles, based on what he has heard tonight, and the details in the presentation, can he immediately make the decision to take this no further?

"To propose the closure of a school with such high standards of excellence as this school, for no benefit elsewhere, I think that would be regarded as an act of vandalism."

The meeting began with Cllr Charles outlining the reasons why the school had been earmarked for possible closure.

"There is a problem with falling rolls right across the county," he said.

"It is a very difficult position every local authority is in and the council have to grapple with.

"We know the distress that can be caused to people with possible closures.

"People quite rightly have an awful lot of attachment, a lot of sentiment.

"However, we have to deal with the amount of funding allocated by government.

"Strategically we have a responsibility to ensure we get the very best value for money that is put in by the public purse."

Cllr Charles added that he could not make the decision to end the proposals because he did not have the authority, and that the decision would ultimately be made by the council's cabinet.

Parents and parent governors put forward a presentation outlining their case to save the school.

Suzie Denton said: "Can the closure of an "outstanding" school be in the best interest of pupils and teachers? We think not.

"We think there is not a strong case for the closure of Combs Infant School.

"This school is in the top ten per cent in the county* and we certainly don't want to close a school in the top ten per cent.

"It is at the heart of the community: let's have it at the heart of the community for another 130 years."

The meeting also heard that the village hall, which is in the school building, could be under threat if the school were to close.

Mike Evanson, chairman of the village hall trust said:"We can't say at this point in time how we can continue in the present form and we need this because the community gets so much out of it."

Chair of governors Nye Rowlands said Stoney Middleton School had been saved after 9,000 letters of support had been sent to the education authority:

"We need to make sure every letter put forward has the village community at heart," he said.

"If people do this I am quite sure that Derbyshire County Council would be forced to reconsider its proposals, which are the daftest thing I have ever come across and I have been in education for 46 years."

*Actually, Suzie said that the school is in the top 10% in the country, not county.