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Friday, 1 June 2007

Combs Sewing Group

These are excerpts from a letter sent to DCC on behalf of Combs Sewing Group.

We use the Village Hall on a weekly basis to learn and develop skills and techniques in sewing, fashion and design, employing them in group and individual projects. Our members reside within the Valley, and the Hall is the natural centre for these activities, no other such group or facilities exist within a reasonable proximity.

The Village Hall, School and Chapel joint facilities are the only community facilities available to the population within the Combs. The closure of Combs School would immediately diminish the social role of the village and conspire with other contemporary factors that tend to turn the village into mere dormitories lacking social richness and the rewarding mixture of social/age groups.

The individuals and groups using the community facilities provided by the Village Hall Trust offer a range of social, recreational and adult learning activities. These groups also provide a real and reactive range of information and support networks for villagers in times of need and crisis.

Therefore, the loss of the community facility in Combs will have major detrimental impacts on the quality of life and support for Combs residents.

We are deeply concerned by the steps you are considering, given our community's tremendous efforts to ensure that the valley has a broad based community resource, and the improvement it has made in the ‘quality of life’ afforded to our community.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Support from DCC Councillor

This letter from Councillor Tracy Critchlow, dated 24 May, was a response to a parent of a child at Combs School, who hopes to be able to send their other child there. Cllr Critchlow (Conservative) represents Chapel and Hope Valley on Derbyshire County Council.

"I agree with the points you raise in your letter as I am familiar with the school and my godson used to attend there. Whilst Combs Infant School is not in my division, children from my area do attend it and I am very strongly against the proposed closure.

"Combs School has always been rated as excellent by OfSTED and has a waiting list of pupils wanting to attend. Closing Combs Infant School would not increase numbers at Chapel School, as many parents actively choose not to send their children there because of its lower standards of attainment. Few children, if any, each year go on to Chapel for their junior school education, preferring to go to better schools elsewhere such as Kettleshulme which is out of the county. This preference would continue as a choice for their infant school education if Combs was closed. The only way to increase the numbers at Chapel is to improve its educational standards, not by closing another school.

"The closure of the school would have many repercussions within the village. The village hall would almost certainly close if the school was closed as the school rents the village hall and provides it's main source of income. Without the use of the school, the village hall would not be viable and the village's only community facility would be lost.

"Combs Infant School is an excellent school which gives its pupils a high standard of education. This is vouched for by the primary schools who state that children from Combs Infant School are above the standard of the children from their other feeder schools.

"I object to an excellent school being closed for no good reason."

Councillor Critchlow's letter was copied to:
  • Bruce Buckley, Strategic Director of Children and Young Adults, DCC
  • Cllr Alan Charles, Cabinet Member forSchools, DCC
  • Cllr Barrie Taylor, Elected Member for Whaley Bridge and Blackbrook, DCC
  • Avis Curry, Head Teacher, Combs Infant School
  • The Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Education & Skills
  • Tom Levitt MP
  • Cllr Andrew Bingham, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak

Plea to MP over school

The following letter appeared in the Buxton Advertiser on 30 May.

Mr Levitt,

Here is a challenge for you, let everyone see what help you can give to Combs School.

Voted as one of the top ten in 2006, you must be very proud, so please write to Mr Bruce Buckley of Derbyshire County Council and see ways in that you can save £54,000, the price of ripping the heart out of a village.

Combs School is the best-run school in Derbyshire with happy, well-mannered children and excellent staff.

My two grandsons live in Combs and I hope they will be able to go to the school and also future generations. Please do not let it close; life is not all about the cost.

Mrs M Hill
Warmbrook Road

Fight is on to save a village's school

This article by Chris Maxwell appeared in the 31 May edition of the Glossop Chronicle.

Campaigners have launched a desperate bid to secure the future of a much-loved community school.

Combs Infant School could be facing the axe after Derbyshire County Council outline plans to close surplus schools in a new education shake-up.

But parents and residents alike have joined forces in a last-ditch effort to safeguard local education.

They have set up the Save Combs School Campaign Group and recently held showdown talks with council chiefs at a community meeting.

Derbyshire County Council say the 26-pupil school is one of a list of schools to be considered for closure under reorganisation plans, with pupils being moved to Chapel-en-le-Frith Primary School.

Campaigner Carah Boden says that the villagers must have their say to protect a vital amenity.

Carah told the Chronicle: “In Combs we have a very healthy school. We already have 21 places lined up for next year.”

The school building is also home to the village hall, and the closure of both would be a huge blow to the Combs community.

Carah adds: “If we lost the school and the village hall it would rip the heart out of Combs. It would be a tragedy if they had to go.”

The village hall is used for everything from weddings and baptisms to a venue for the Brownies.

The Combs community fears that it would lose its identity if the two vital amenities were taken away.

Councillor Alan Charles, Derbyshire County Council’s cabinet member for schools, says: “The issue of falling pupil numbers is a tough problem that councils across the country have had to face. There are no easy answers and we have looked at all the options.

“Where possible we have carried out alternative options to reduce surplus places but sometimes that is not possible.

“I know that parents will be unhappy if their child attends one of the schools involved in this review but we are looking to provide fair and equitable education for all Derbyshire students.

“Schools with a lot of surplus places cost much more and mean there is less money available for students at other schools, which has an impact on the quality of education they can be offered.”

The council insist that pupils will benefit from shorter journeys to school and adds that the cost of funding education at Combs is far higher than elsewhere in Derbyshire.

Supporters say that 95 per cent of pupils currently live within three miles of the school.

The cost of funding education for each pupil at Combs is £5,447, compared to a Derbyshire average of £2,635.

Campaigners have hit back, saying that the funding is covered by the council’s own small school protection scheme.

Residents will have until 6 July to write to Derbyshire County Council to express their views over an issue that has gripped a community.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

High Peak Councillor pledges support

In a letter to Derbyshire County Council, High Peak Borough Councillor Steve Sharp has said, "I am writing to express my extreme disappointment in the decision by the County Council to close Combs Infant School. Not only is it an excellent educational facility with very hard-working, high-quality staff, but it is the centre of the community."

Mr. Sharp, who is the prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Liberal Democrats in the High Peak, went on, "Unfortunately the argument for the closure is on a cost basis which doesn't actually stack up. Even if this wasn't the case the County has a moral duty to educate these young children in the village in which they live, not moving them to other schools miles away."

"County Councillor Barrie Taylor and I will be leading the Lib Dem fight to save Combs School, and will be requesting a meeting with Alan Charles. If we don't make progress we will be going straight to Nick Hodgson, the Chief Executive"

New Leaflets Are Ready

Thanks to the very generous support of Glossop based printer Jodi Cook at Plain Talk Print, we now have some leaflets ready for distribution.

They do double duty, giving information on how to oppose the school closure on one side, and providing a card that can be displayed in a car window on the reverse.

They'll be available wherever the petition is being signed, and will be dropped through letter boxes over the next week.

If you want to help distribute leaflets, e-mail the Campaign Team.

If you're not able to pick up a leaflet, you can also download it to print yourself. Just click on the images and you'll be able to print from your browser.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Download a Poster

New posters are being made. If you want to be ahead of the rush to get one, you can now download one to print yourself. It's A4 size.

Download Poster (A4 PDF format)

Research Resources on the Web

Here are some web sites that could help you if you're doing research on education, population, social and economic trends, or other subjects connected with the proposed closure of Combs School.

UPDATE 29 May:

  • Closing a Maintained Mainstream School - A Guide for Local Authorities and Governing Bodies (PDF format).

    This DfES guide contains both statutory guidance (i.e. guidance that must be followed) and non-statutory guidance on the process for closing a maintained school in accordance with the procedures established by the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (EIA 2006). The relevant provisions of the Act came into effect on 25 May 2007.

    In particular, take a look at the section around paragraph 4.20, where it says "Decision Makers should be satisfied that proposals for a school closure will contribute to raising local standards of provision, and will lead to improved attainment for children and young people." We believe that DCC should fail in their closure proposal because of this point.

  • Expanding a Maintained Mainstream School or Adding a Sixth Form (PDF format).

    This guide contains both statutory guidance (i.e. guidance that must be followed) and non-statutory guidance on the process for “expanding” a school. Throughout this guide any reference to “expand” (i.e. or “expanding”, or “expansion”) covers the following “prescribed alterations”: enlarging the physical capacity of a school, increasing a school’s intake by 27 or more pupils and changing the school’s upper age limit to add a sixth form.

  • Duty to Respond to Parental Representations about the Provision of Schools: Guidance to LEAs (PDF format).

    This is guidance to local authorities (LAs) in England on how they should carry out their duty under Section 14A of the Education Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”) to consider parental representations about the exercise of their functions in relation to the provision of primary and secondary education under Section 14 of the 1996 Act. Section 14A was inserted by Section 3 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which came into force on 25 May 2007.

UPDATE 1 June:

UPDATE 5 June:

  • The Education and Inspections Bill 2006.

    They say: "In autumn 2005 the Government published the Schools White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools For All, a major step forward in the Government’s aim of ensuring that every child in every school in every community gets the education they need to enable them to fulfil their potential. Many of these changes do not require legislation; others are taken forward by the Education and Inspections Bill which was published on the 28 February 2006. The Bill also includes some provisions which were not included in the White Paper, for example those on inspectorate reform."

    We say: "A good place to look for the promises and commitments made on educational standards."

UPDATE 16 June:

  • This Google Map has been updated to show the 'normal area' for Combs School. It will be added to as we get other geographical data.

  • DCC provided a map of the 'normal area' that you can download (1Mb, PDF format).

UPDATE 28 June:

UPDATE 3 July:

UPDATE 21 July:

  • Education matters are decided by Derbyshire County Council. You can read about the Council's plans for schools here.

Let us know of any other good sources of information.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Have You Signed the Petition Yet?

A petition in support of preventing the closure of Combs School, Village Hall and Chapel has been open for the last week or so, and the signatures are coming in thick and fast.

At the last count, more than 1000 people had expressed their support, and that's not just in Combs, but in the wider community around the village, where the value of what's here is well understood.

Have you signed the petition yet? Look out for the petition forms in The Beehive, other local pubs, shops, supermarkets and workplaces. If you need more forms, e-mail the Campaign Team.

If you have taken a petition form away to gather signatures, please return completed sheets to Combs Infant School, Lesser Lane, Combs, High Peak, SK23 9UZ.

If you are outside the area, and unable to sign the petition on paper, you can still show your support.

Go to the online petition on the No. 10 Downing Street web site. Please note that signing the petition is a two-step process. First you put your name and address in. You'll be sent an e-mail to the addressyou give. You need to click on the link in that e-mail to confirm your 'signature' on the petition.

If you want to get other people to sign the petition, use the e-mail link below to send them a copy of this post.

You can also express your support by leaving a comment below.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Photos Needed

We'd like to show the wide range of activities that the Village Hall is used for.

Unsurprisingly, because the Hall is just part of our lives, people may not have taken photos of all the things that happen there.

Things like...
  • Brownies

  • Sewing Circle

  • Community Meetings

  • Polling Station

  • Children's Parties

  • After-School Clubs

  • Charity Fund-Raising Events

  • Village Fun Day - including Sports Day next to the School

  • Church Services - Weddings, Baptisms

Do you have any photos we could post on this campaign blog?

You can either e-mail them to the webmaster, or drop prints off at Little Corner (near the Beehive) so that they can be scanned and returned to you.