Fight is on to save a village's school

This article by Chris Maxwell appeared in the 31 May edition of the Glossop Chronicle.

Campaigners have launched a desperate bid to secure the future of a much-loved community school.

Combs Infant School could be facing the axe after Derbyshire County Council outline plans to close surplus schools in a new education shake-up.

But parents and residents alike have joined forces in a last-ditch effort to safeguard local education.

They have set up the Save Combs School Campaign Group and recently held showdown talks with council chiefs at a community meeting.

Derbyshire County Council say the 26-pupil school is one of a list of schools to be considered for closure under reorganisation plans, with pupils being moved to Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School.

Campaigner Carah Boden says that the villagers must have their say to protect a vital amenity.

Carah told the Chronicle: “In Combs we have a very healthy school. We already have 21 places lined up for next year.”

The school building is also home to the village hall, and the closure of both would be a huge blow to the Combs community.

Carah adds: “If we lost the school and the village hall it would rip the heart out of Combs. It would be a tragedy if they had to go.”

The village hall is used for everything from weddings and baptisms to a venue for the Brownies.

The Combs community fears that it would lose its identity if the two vital amenities were taken away.

Councillor Alan Charles, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for schools, says: “The issue of falling pupil numbers is a tough problem that councils across the country have had to face. There are no easy answers and we have looked at all the options.

“Where possible we have carried out alternative options to reduce surplus places but sometimes that is not possible.

“I know that parents will be unhappy if their child attends one of the schools involved in this review but we are looking to provide fair and equitable education for all Derbyshire students.

“Schools with a lot of surplus places cost much more and mean there is less money available for students at other schools, which has an impact on the quality of education they can be offered.”

The council insist that pupils will benefit from shorter journeys to school and adds that the cost of funding education at Combs is far higher than elsewhere in Derbyshire.

Supporters say that 95 per cent of pupils currently live within three miles of the school.

The cost of funding education for each pupil at Combs is £5,447, compared to a Derbyshire average of £2,635.

Campaigners have hit back, saying that the funding is covered by the council’s own small school protection scheme.

Residents will have until 6 July to write to Derbyshire County Council to express their views over an issue that has gripped a community.