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Saturday, 12 May 2007

'Top value' school under threat

This article by Steve Cunliffe appeared in the Manchester Evening News on 12 May.

Part of the article reads:

A VILLAGE school praised by watchdogs for giving outstanding value for money is being earmarked for closure because it costs too much.

Parents and governors are now launching a campaign to keep the infant school at Combs, near Chapel-en-le-Frith, open.

Only last September, an Ofsted report said: "The school provides outstanding value for money and enjoys great levels of support and confidence from parents and the community."


Chairman of the governors Nye Rowlands condemned the closure proposal saying that the school could look after all its pupils well, including those with special needs, saving the county council money in having to make different arrangements.

School is held in the former Methodist church and adjoining village hall, which is also used for social events such as weddings and a needle-work circle.

Mr Rowlands said: "The village hall relies on rent from the county council for the school. It would be a devastating blow for the village if the school was to close."

He described the closure proposal as `an incredible exercise in dumbing down and taking away parental choice against government policy'.

He said: "If you accept the council figures, they are prepared to shut down a fantastic school to save about £60,000 a year. We will oppose this all the way."

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Four Derbyshire schools may shut

10 May 2007: BBC News Report

Four Derbyshire schools may shut as officials say they are too costly to stay open due to falling pupil numbers.

The schools are Apperknowle Primary, near Dronfield, Castle Gresley Infants, Combs Infant School and Highfield Primary in Long Eaton.

Derbyshire County Council said it would consult parents before making any formal decision about closure.

Derbyshire County Council's announcement

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Closure threat to a 'Rolls-Royce' school

This article by Louise Bellicoso appeared in the Buxton Advertiser on 9 May.

PLANS for the possible closure of an outstanding High Peak school have been slammed as an attempt to "destroy the village of Combs".

Governors were told of the proposals for Combs Infant School, which received an outstanding report in a recent Ofsted inspection, on Tuesday evening.

Chair of governors Nye Rowlands said: "The school is in the top ten per cent of schools in the country.

"This is a bolt from the blue. It is not a school with dwindling numbers.

"It is a possibility that the closure of the school will make it extraordinarily difficult to maintain the independence of the village hall.

"This will not just be the closure of one of the best schools, it is a strong possibility that this will lead to the loss of the last amenity in the village of Combs.

"The population of 200 will be left with a pub and nothing else, no shops, no place to meet. It is obviously a move to destroy the village of Combs," he added.

"There isn't any reason at all for this, other than I can only say that the cost of pupils in Combs is quite high compared with the average cost of infant pupils in Derbyshire.

"The philosophy seems to be that parents who send their children to Combs are getting a Rolls Royce because of the standard of schooling at Combs and they shouldn't be getting a Rolls Royce, they should be getting a Ford Mondeo, the average schooling.

"What Derbyshire (county council) should be doing is looking to bring other schools up to the standard of Combs."

A public meeting will take place at the school on May 22 at 6.30pm and Mr Rowlands added that if the decision was made to close the school, it would close in July 2008.

Derbyshire County Council said councillors will be asked on Tuesday whether to hold a public consultation into the plans.

They added the reasons for the plans were:

  • Combs Infant School has 25 pupils and 15 of those live outside the school catchment area.
  • It costs £5,447 to educate each pupil compared to a Derbyshire average of £2,635. This means pupils at other schools in Derbyshire get less funding.
  • It will mean shorter schools journeys for many pupils.
  • Most pupils already move to Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School for their junior education.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Derbyshire County Council plans to close Combs Infant School

Concerned parents, members of the community, and all those members of the public who see Combs as a centre of excellence and worthy of preservation, are invited to make their views on this issue known here.

We realise that all of you who know Combs are justifiably angry with the proposal from DCC to close the school.

However, this is a public site and therefore we ask you to moderate your anger and work together to reverse this proposal by force of argument alone.......

Notice of the consultation process is on the Derbyshire County Council web site. You can download the CONSULTATION DOCUMENT: PROPOSALS FOR A RE-ORGANISATION OF PRIMARY EDUCATION - COMBS INFANT SCHOOL (PDF document).

Monday, 7 May 2007

How To Add Your Comment

At the bottom of most messages posted on this blog is a count of the comments left by people. Click on that link and you can leave your own comment.

You don't need a Blogger username or password. You can leave your comment either anonymously, under a pseudonym, or with your real identity.

Please remember you're speaking in public and make sure you don't offend people or misrepresent facts.

With that said, please add your comments! This blog is here for you to participate in, and we want to make sure that all views are represented.

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.