Tom Levitt MP writes to DCC

After his visit to Combs on 25 May, and his meeting with us, Tom Levitt has written to Councillor Alan Charles at DCC with a series of questions:

  1. What impact would closure have on the county’s finances and surplus places reduction programme?
  2. What other measures could be used to reduce surplus places?
  3. How have you calculated the net travel costs and carbon footprint implications of closure?
  4. Does DCC have the final say?
  5. Parental choice: are not all but one of the nearest schools to Combs faith schools?
  6. Is there not a presumption in favour of ‘excellent’ schools being protected in the Act?
  7. How do you assess the impact of closure on a rural community?
Under 'Political considerations', Mr. Levitt says:

‘Closing a school renowned for its excellence’; ‘taking the heart out of a rural community’; ‘taking steps which will not make significant progress towards reducing surplus places’ and ‘reducing parental choice’ are all damaging accusations which need to be addressed by DCC. This is especially true if there is no longer a ‘safety net’ which parents can use to obtain an independent assessment of the Authority’s decision and the process being adopted.

Read the whole letter. We hope to be able to publish a copy of Councillor Charles' reply.

Tom Levitt has also tabled a written Parliamentary Question: "What weight should a local authority give to a consistent rating of ‘excellent’ when considering a small rural school for closure under a surplus places reduction strategy?" We'll keep you informed of the answer when we hear of it.

UPDATE 12 June

The following answer to Tom Levitt's written question was provided by Jim Knight (Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills)

"Before publishing proposals to close a school a local authority must consult all interested parties on its proposals, including the school's staff, governors and parents, and other schools and local authorities likely to be affected. The authority must provide sufficient information and allow adequate time for those being consulted to form a view and make their views known, and it must take those views into account in deciding whether to go ahead and publish its proposals.

"When deciding proposals to close a school the local authority must take account of statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The guidance does not specify the weightings that decision-makers should apply to the various factors they take into account, but it makes clear that they must be satisfied that closing the school would contribute to raising the standard of provision locally and lead to improved attainment for children. The statutory guidance also includes a presumption against closing rural primary schools. Although this does not mean that no rural primary school will ever close, the case for closure needs to be strong."

UPDATE 22 June:

Read the reply from Alan Charles at DCC.