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Thursday, 5 July 2007

Governors Submit Report to DCC

A 43 page report by the Governors of Combs Infant School was handed in to DCC at Matlock yesterday. The Executive Summary is reproduced below.

The Governors of Combs Infant School wish to register the strongest objection to the proposal to close our school and urge Derbyshire County Council, on the basis of national guidelines and on factors specific to this flagship provision, to urgently reconsider what we feel would be an educational and community act of vandalism.

The key matters to be drawn to the attention of DCC are as follows:

The closure of the school will result in a significant impact on the Village Hall and community facilities. Given the nature of the relationship between the School and the Village Hall Trust, there is the very real risk that it will not be possible to maintain the amenity of the Village Hall if Combs School is closed.

There is a healthy ongoing demand for places at Combs School. There is only one year in the next three in which the DCC projected admission numbers fall below the published admission number. In addition we have carried out our own research into the number of local children likely to attend Combs Infant School in the next 4 years.

There are a number of transport issues arising out of the proposed closure of Combs School. Parents have surveyed distances from home to school and have pointed out that journeys would be significantly increased if Combs closed and there would be no viable walking alternative to motor transport. There is no evidence to prove that the closure of Combs Infant School will solve the issue of surplus places at the alternative school originally proposed.

The proposal to Close Combs School does not properly address key areas of the statutory guidance from the Secretary of State that DCC is obliged to take into consideration and is inconsistent with DCC’s Organisation Plan. In particular, in relation to: impact on local standards of educational provision; framework to address surplus school places; presumption against closure of rural schools and sites and the need to consider the alternatives to closure of rural schools and sites; rural school transport implications; rural schools impact on community; faith schools; condition and suitability of buildings; school performance & leadership.

Closure of the school would result in the removal of parental choice contrary to the Schools Admissions Code brought about by the imposition of a catchment area which is outdated and does not reflect realistic lines of communication and transport.

Combs Infant School operates significantly within the formula funding provided by DCC, producing outstanding results and 'outstanding value for money' (OfSted report – 2006). The out turn figures for 2006/7 show efficient and prudent management considerably reducing the unit cost per pupil, providing a surplus underspend and questioning the financial methodology imposed by DCC.

Combs School provides excellent education, receiving an outstanding OfSTED evaluation in 2006. There is statutory imperative for “the best schools to be able to expand and spread their ethos & success”.

We have added 7 appendices to the report to provide further evidence of our case to retain Combs Infant School. Each appendix emphasises and enlarges upon the case we have made in the main body of our submission:

  1. We were asked to provide evidence of potential pupils who will attend Combs Infant School in the next five years.

  2. Detailed research has been carried out into why the proposal to close Combs Infant School is inconsistent with Derbyshire’s own School Organisation Plan.

  3. We are proud of the fact that our campaign to save the school has attracted a very high level of support from a wide range of people, organisations and institutions.

  4. We were asked by DCC to examine the Stoney Middleton case against school closure and we have done so with our comment that the case to retain Combs Infant School is even stronger.

  5. From the outset we have been concerned about the poor quality of the original proposal and the inaccuracies it contained.

  6. We quoted extensively from the correspondence between Tom Levitt MP and County Councillor Alan Charles.

  7. We quoted extensively from the OfSTED Report on Combs Infant School.

The submission was supported by the petition, showing the names of the 1687 people who, by the beginning of this week, had signed to record their support for the campaign. (Since the petition was submitted, another 256 names have been added, and there are 173 names on the online petition, so over 2000 people have pledged their support. We'll send the additional names on to DCC.)

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