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Monday, 7 May 2007

New Readers: Start Here

This blog has grown very rapidly, and will be daunting if you're a new reader, so this post gives you the story so far in a single place. It will be updated from time to time so that new readers can always start here. This post was last updated on 17 October 2007.

What is Derbyshire County Council trying to do?
They want to reduce their over-provision of school places across the county, spread taxpayers' money 'fairly' across pupils, and improve educational standards. (Read about DCC's proposal)

DCC thinks that closing Combs School will achieve these objectives. The decision on whether Combs School should close will be taken in October 2007. If this campaign fails, the last pupil will be transferred to another school in July 2008.

If Combs School is closed, will DCC's objectives be achieved?
No. Parents would not choose to send their children to schools in Derbyshire with an over-provision of places. Closing Combs School, rated as 'outstanding' in every inspection category by OfSTED, would lower, not improve, educational standards in Derbyshire.

But Combs School costs more per pupil - that can't be fair?
The latest OfSTED report summarised Combs School as 'outstanding value for money', a direct contradiction of DCC's view.

DCC's calculation of cost-per-pupil neglects significant factors. For example, the School rents their use of the building from the Village Hall Trust which has maintained the building with community support for many years. This has reduced capital costs to the county. There are other factors that should be taken into account in a proper calculation of cost and value.

It's also crucial to compare like-for-like, so that a small rural excellent school is properly rated: the council's own plan recognises that small rural schools deserve additional financial support.

Surely there are alternatives to closure?
Very probably. DCC has a statutory duty to consider alternatives, but the only option they have considered is that of merging Combs School with a school that parents choose not to send their children to because of its lower educational standard.

We have offered to help DCC assess ways of lowering cost-per-pupil and improving educational standards for more pupils in the county, but that offer hasn't been taken up as yet.

Closing the school would mean that the Village Hall Trust would lose its main source of income, and put the continuance of the Village Hall and Chapel in jeopardy. We believe this is a disproportionately large adverse effect that DCC has not fully taken into account. It would remove the only community facility in the village.

What support has your campaign had?
Over 1700 signatures have been gathered on a written petition. This includes support from the surrounding towns and villages, not just from Combs itself. An online petition, primarily aimed at people outside the area who have an interest in the campaign, has already gained the support of more than 190 people.

In terms of political support, it has been forthcoming from:

Read what local and national politicians have had to say.

How do I oppose the closure of Combs School, Village Hall and Chapel?
The deadline for writing to DCC in the consultation period was 6 July 2007. If you feel strongly about this matter, you should still write to Derbyshire County Council - the decision on whether to close the school will be made on 30 October 2007. We have posted excerpts from some of the letters that have already been sent.

I want to know more, what should I read next?

You can use the links at the bottom of this page, in the 'Blog Archive', to read all of the blog posts in the order they were created.

You can use the 'Labels' section on the right hand side of the page to read collections of posts about various subjects. In particular, you'll probably want to read all the posts relating to the big formal responses that have been sent to DCC.

You can stay up to date by joining the mailing list - there's a link for that on the right hand side of the page.

Oh, and don't forget, this web site is set up for you to comment on anything you find here. If you're not sure how to do that, read this post.