‘Outstanding’ School Under Closure Threat

A press release was issued by the campaign team today with the following text (you can download the MS Word document here)

A village school which is among the top 10 per cent in the country is threatened with closure in a row over funding.

The infants school in the picture postcard Peak District village of Combs in Derbyshire – rated ‘outstanding’ in all categories in the 2006 Ofsted report – has been told it must close next year. Education officials at the county council claim numbers are falling and closure will save around £70,000 a year.

But parents, staff and school governors say that if the 26-pupil school closes then the village hall and church will have to shut too, destroying the local community. Governors say officials are manipulating the figures to the point of dishonesty. When the correct like-for-like calculations are applied the saving is around £50,000 and can be further reduced by value add-ons like existing provision for special needs cases.

Parent governor Steve Lyons is outraged: ’The county claims that numbers are falling – but this is rubbish. Next year there’s a tiny drop but after that the school will be over-subscribed – as it always has been.’

Officials claim that most pupils are from outside the catchment area. But parents insist that all but one live within two miles and many walk to school on a daily basis. Closure would mean more car journeys at a time when the Government is trying to encourage more children to walk to school.

Chairman of governors Nye Rowlands, who spent his entire working life in education, says the closure is a national scandal: ‘They’ve taken leave of their senses. Ofsted got it right when it said the school provided outstanding value for money and enjoyed great levels of support and confidence from parents and the community.’

High Peak’s MP Tom Levitt has also been drawn into the dispute. He’s promised to take up the parents’ case with Derbyshire County Council and the Department of Education.

Governors say the real irony is that closure is likely to prove more costly for the county. The trend has been for parents to move their children across the county boundary into Cheshire – at Derbyshire’s expense - rather than to the primary school in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith where no pupils have moved on to in the last seven years, contrary to the assertions of Derbyshire County Council.

Governor Steve Lyons adds: ‘We’ll fight this to the bitter end. This is exactly the kind of school the Government wants. It’s a jewel in the education crown and it should be expanded rather than closed.’