Invitations Not Accepted (Yet)

Well, we tried to give Gordon Brown a photo opportunity in the playground of an excellent school (he does seem to like doing them), but his campaign team haven't replied to our invitation (yet). We thought that he'd want to understand what makes a rural school work well. Last December, he said, "I propose to increase the cash we give to every school and every head teacher, to be used in the way local schools think best. The typical primary school received £39,000 this year in direct payments; for April next year I propose this be £50,000". We'd like him to explain how DCC's proposals square with his ambitions.

Nor has Alan Johnson told us he's interested (yet) in visiting Combs School. He's the chap that wrote, "We do encourage Local Authorities to take action to remove surplus places, as empty places can be poor use of resources, but our guidance makes clear that their removal must support the core agenda of raising standards and respect parents wishes by seeking to match school places with parental choices." So he'd surely want to know how removing an outstanding school that is favoured by parents is supposed to raise standards and improve choice.

We also thought that members of the Cabinet* of Derbyshire County Council might visit the village, as part of their due diligence in looking at whether Combs School should close. You would think that they'd want to personally understand what's going on, and take a short ride out from Matlock, wouldn't you?

But John Williams (Leader of the Council) replied to our invitation saying that they would not be coming. He said that they operate a cabinet system, and will make a decision based solely on the report of the cabinet member responsible for schools, Alan Charles. So they won't have the opportunity to gain personal knowledge on which to base their decision, and ensure that their individual responsibilities* are fully taken care of. Perhaps they suspect that they might have to change their minds - as other people have done when they have visited the village and gathered information first-hand - and then oppose the closing of the school.

Thank goodness that other people in politics (local and national) have taken the time to come and see for themselves what happens in Combs. It has often resulted in gaining their support.

So, Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson and members of the DCC Cabinet: we'd still like to show you round. You'll be made very welcome.

* The cabinet members (with the responsibilities they hold that are particularly relevant) are:

John Williams (Community Consultation), Anne Western (Overview of Schools Planning and Support), Annette Noskwith (Leader of the Opposition, without portfolio), Clive Moesby (Community safety), Brian Lucas (Public transport including schools), Bob Janes (Early Years and Childcare; Children’s Centres), Alan Charles, Geoff Carlile (Community development), Ken Armstrong (Community Cohesion; Parish Council Liaison), and Dave Allen (Supporting People).
More information.