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Thursday, 1 November 2007

DCC Announces Decision

This press release was issued on 31 October by DCC. See below for some observations.


An infant school threatened with closure is to stay open, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet has decided.

Members of the cabinet followed a recommendation by education officers to keep Combs Infant School in Chapel-en-le-Frith open.
[NOTE 1]

Before a council can take a decision to close a rural school it has be satisfied – under the terms of the 2006 Education Act – that pupils would receive a better standard of education if they were moved to alternative schools.

Councillors were told that although the nearest alternative school, Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School, provides a good quality education standards at Combs Infant School are currently higher.

The cabinet decided against closing Combs Infant School but to keep the problem of surplus places in the Chapel-en-le-Frith area under review.

Councillor Alan Charles, cabinet member for schools, said: “Currently there are only seven pupils from the catchment area
[NOTE 2] of Combs that attend the school.

“In theory there could be no pupils from the catchment area but we would still have to keep the school open if we cannot show that educational standards would be improved by moving pupils to an alternative school.

“Keeping the school open means we are providing a costly and privileged education for children not directly from the Combs community
[NOTE 3]. This is at the expense of tax payers and every other child attending a Derbyshire school.”

The cost of educating each pupil at Combs Infant School is £5,447
[NOTE 4], compared to £2,635 at other infant schools [NOTE 5] in the county.

The decision followed an informal public consultation during which there were 180 letters and a petition with 1,687 signatures
[NOTE 6] opposing the proposals to close Combs Infant School.

There were also concerns expressed about the impact that closing the school would have on community groups, who use the same building.

(Ref: JF.375.07) Media enquiries to John Fern on 01629 585234 or email
[NOTE 7]
OK, ready for the explanation? Go and grab a cup of tea, because the explanation is almost as long as the original press release.

Note 1:That's a subtle one, isn't it? Quite easy to miss on first reading. Combs is not 'in Chapel-en-le-Frith', although if it was it could make sense for all the kids to go to Chapel-en-le-Frith school, couldn't it? Combs is 'in Chapel-en-le-Frith' like St. Albans is 'in London'.

Note 2:DCC told us that there was no such thing as a 'catchment area' any more. So why is Alan Charles referring to it now, how is it defined, and what effect is it supposed to have legally?

Note 3:Similarly, how is 'not directly from the Combs community' defined?

Note 4:That's a budget number, not the actual cost, which is lower. Budgets were most recently discussed here.

Note 5:The £2635 is an average for primary schools, not infant schools as stated here.

Note 6:They're still getting the petition numbers wrong. There were 2141 signatures - that's about three times the population of our small village of Combs. They're out by about 20%. Not enough to matter? The amount they're wrong by is about two-thirds the population of Combs. What else do you think they'll have got wrong?

Note 7:Just in case you think that these press releases could be misleading by accident, this is what DCC's press officer told us: "All press releases are approved by the senior officers involved in the particular issue concerned and by the relevant cabinet member. If there are legal issues involved they are also checked by one of our lawyers."

1 comment:

hb said...

These issues need to be referred to a higher authority in education. It is clear that Cllr Charles has lost any remnants of professionalism by allowing the Combs School farce to beceom personal. In my opini0n he should not be involved in future decisions concerning this, and other Derbyshire schools.