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Thursday, 1 November 2007

School Closure Plan Was Vandalism

This letter appeared in today's Buxton Advertiser. It comes from Barrie Taylor, County Councillor for Whaley Bridge & Blackbrook. He is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader on the Council.

The County's grudging agreement not to close Combs Infant School is a huge relief to the local community, and a great credit to all those who have campaigned so hard and so effectively to keep the school open.

Barrie TaylorHowever, joy at the decision is tempered by annoyance that the closure procedure was ever started, and that it was allowed to go on for so long.

The final report to Cabinet recommended that the school should survive, but hardly referred to all the compelling evidence provided by the school governors and the local campaigners. The decision was based entirely on the fact that closure of the only "Outstanding" school in the area, as declared by Ofsted inspectors, could not improve local standards of education. That was glaringly obvious from the outset.

It soon became apparent that none of the other criteria that are set by the Government for the closure of rural schools were met, as the school is also the village hall, and there would be no benefit to other schools that are experiencing falling school rolls.

At the original public meeting I asked for the closure process to be stopped straight away, as the evidence was already so conclusive.

Councillor Alan Charles, Cabinet member for schools, continued to insist that the process had to grind on to the end, despite clear government guidance that it could be stopped at any time. He subsequently accused me of making a "grandstanding speech to get a cheap round of applause".

In the attempt to justify the original proposal to close the school the Council continue to quote inflated figures of the cost per pupil at Combs, despite the Ofsted report stating that it gives "outstanding value for money".

Pupils at Combs are very lucky to be able to attend such an excellent school in lovely surroundings, and it would be wonderful if all infants in the County could have the same experience.

However to propose closing Combs school because this is not possible is the politics of envy.

At the outset I said that to close this centre of excellence at Combs, without any benefit elsewhere, would be an act of vandalism.

The report to Cabinet of the County's education officers comes to the same conclusion, in more diplomatic language.


No More Vandalism, Please! said...

I think Barrie Taylor is quite right to portray Alan Charles as a vandal.

Can Alan Charles be trusted?

Can he be trusted to read and understand the legislation that controls his area of responsibility?

Can he be trusted to spend taxpayers money carefully? This needless 'consultation' process (ha ha) has cost us all dearly.

Can he be trusted to put out accurate information? It would appear that he's happy to use council resources, that we pay for, to misinform the electorate.

I don't think he's got the remotest clue how to produce a good outcome for a schoolkid: he should be pulled from office at the earliest opportunity.

Her on the Hill said...

Cllr Alan Charles is not fit to be Cabinet Member for Schools at Derbyshire County Council.

He has repeatedly said, both in DCC meetings and in the public arena, that the consultation process is about finding out public opinion and other related issues when a school is proposed for closure. The suppport against closure was well-argued, supported by statistics and research and fully documented from the outset to the conclusion. This is exactly why he said it was only fair to allow the consultation period to run its full course. So why, now that we have a fair result, which was obvious from the outset but has now been fully documented, is he whingeing away to Cabinet and in the media, doing more untold damage to this excellent school and its supportive community?

This clearly is not a man who believes in the processes of local politics and is willing to uphold them.

No, this is a man who is very angry that he has not got his short-sighted and hypocrital way.

This is a man who claims to know the price of everything (but actually keeps getting the price tag wrong) and in fact KNOWS THE VALUE OF NOTHING.

This is a man who clearly can't read i.e the OFSTED report 'OUTSTANDING VALUE FOR MONEY' and the recommendation of educational officers AGAINST closure.

This is a hypocrite who has wasted thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money to get back to the point at which we started (YOU CAN'T CLOSE AN OUTSTANDING SCHOOL IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF EDUCATION).

This is a man who, if Combs Infant School were in his own constituency of south Derbyshire - where he was happy to spend £124,000 of public money in improving the loos and staff room at HIS local school (at Combs this was done as a community effort)- would be holding the school up as the model for all to follow.

This is a man who yesterday immediately stated his intention to fix the 'error' in the Department for Education and Skills legislation which tripped him up with regard to small schools.

In other words our Cabinet Minister for Education, an ex-teacher, believes that allowing even a small number of kids to get an outstanding education in a nurturing and appropriate environment for their age group is an ERROR.

It is high time our Labour Government (are you listening Mr Levitt?) stopped feigning interest in improving education and actually did something about it by GETTING RID OF COUNCILLOR CHARLES BEFORE HE DOES ANY MORE DAMAGE TO A COUNTY WHICH ALWAYS USED TO SUPPORT SMALL SCHOOLS PRODUCING EXCELLENT RESULTS.