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Because the site is no longer maintained, those links no longer work.
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Saturday, 16 June 2007

'Normal Area' Map

Go to the updated Research Resources post to see the map of the 'Normal Area' for Combs School.

Friday, 15 June 2007

William’s Story

This is William Ford-Ward’s story, as told by his mum, Jackie.

“My daughter Alice was 7 years old, and in year 2 at Combs School, when my younger son William was diagnosed with Leukaemia. As you can imagine, our lives fell apart. William and I spent weeks in Manchester Children’s Hospital, while he underwent chemotherapy from February to December 2003.

“Our focus was on William. It was an extremely difficult time for Alice, with her mum, dad and brother in and out of hospital. But thanks to the support and understanding of the school, she found it easier to get through.

“Most parents we met at hospital weren’t able to send their children to school while they were receiving treatment: these children had private tuition at home. One of the consultants treating William encouraged us to keep his life as normal as possible, and this included him going to school. We were fortunate: William was able to go into the reception class at Combs School, as apprehensive as we were about some of the problems he would face – infections, loss of hair, and weight gain. He settled immediately and became just one of the children, forgetting about his problems. The teachers helped William to get back on track with his education and the other children restored his confidence and let him know that his treatment wasn’t his whole life.

“Will has missed many days schooling over the past three years, but thanks to the teachers he has never fallen behind in his learning. He is now into the last of his five years of checkups, and everything is going well for him."

William is pictured receiving his Young Achievers Award from Councillor Burrows

“I believe we are fortunate to live in this small community. People know who their neighbours are here, and there is a tremendous community spirit. My husband’s family has farmed here for the past sixty years. He went to Combs School, as did his two sisters.

My two children have had a wonderful education there, and I hope that my third child, expected in October this year, will be attending this same amazing small school in the heart of this wonderful village.”

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Kids help MacMillan

From today's Buxton Advertiser:

YOUNGSTERS at the closure-threatened Combs Infants School have helped raise over £500 for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Six pupils took part in a sponsored walk around Fernilee Reservoir, organised by one of the parents, and raised £574.

Teacher Judy Irwin said: "For them to do that is just fantastic, especially as it took place out of school hours. We think they have done brilliantly.

"The school now hopes this will become an annual event for such a worthwhile cause."

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

DCC General Council Meeting

Mike Evanson from the Village Hall Trust and three parents from Combs School attended the General Council Meeting at Matlock this afternoon to put the following question to Councillor Alan Charles, Cabinet Member for Education, on behalf of the campaign.

'Since the consultation process began in May, we have sought to explain the strong community support for the School, Village Hall and Chapel. We have shown in meetings with the Council and others (to be supported by the submissions that we will make to Council) that the objectives of the Council to reduce surplus school places and improve educational standards will not be achieved by the Council's proposal. Has this strong evidence and support for the continuance of Combs School, Village Hall and Chapel already suggested to the Council that the proposal for closure should be set aside?'

After Councillor Charles’ response, a supplementary question was allowed, again put by Mike Evanson on behalf of the campaign:

'Various political representatives who have had greater exposure to the evidence have already concluded that there is a very strong case for Combs School not to be closed. The Council may be aware of the approach made by Tom Levitt to question the proposal, the unanimous support of the Parish Council for our area, and the messages of support that have been sent by present High Peak and County Councillors. This complements a unified and determined community response, which is characteristic of the spirit of Combs in present and past times. To quote a councillor from Chapel-en-le-Frith: 'When I went to the consultation meeting, based on the evidence presented by DCC, I thought there was a clear case for closure of the school. Having heard the arguments put forth by the whole community - parents, governors and villagers - I left with a completely changed mind.' Since the continuation of this consultation process will continue to destablilise a valuable resource, and not achieve the Council's objectives, in whose interests is it to let it continue?'

Councillor Barrie Taylor (Lib Dem – Whaley Bridge and Blackbrook) spoke later in the meeting regarding the closure of Combs in the context of Surplus Places and related Primary School Closures and concluding that closing Combs would not meet any of the objectives originally set out in DCC’s Proposed Closures document.

Councillor Tracy Critchlow (Conservative – Chapel and Hope Valley) stated that she was totally against the closure and that perhaps the Cabinet would have given the school the courtesy of spelling ‘Combs’ correctly in the Agenda.

A spokesman for Apperknowle school asked if the Council will take into consideration the individual needs of children during the consultation process.

Councillor Charles’ response to all of the above is summarized below and follows the same lines as his response to the Open Meeting at the school on 22nd May:

  • ‘Closing a school is always a very, very hard decision’
  • ‘We have a strategic responsibility to provide quality education for the 110,000 children in primary education in the Authority’
  • ‘We have to ensure we are getting value for money for all the children across the county’
  • ‘We have an Audit Commission requirement and DfES requirement not to waste public funds in empty school buildings and to ensure that every child should get a fair deal’
  • ‘It costs around £5,700 to educate each child at Combs and Apperknowle compared to £2,600 to educate elsewhere’ [see Note 2 below]
  • ‘At Combs we are looking at educating 10 children [currently] from the ‘normal’ area of the school: are we going to do it a cost of moving them to another school nearby [Chapel], for which we will provide the necessary transport provision? Or are we going to continue to pay twice the price for them to continue their privileged education at the cost of other schools in Derbyshire? [see Note 1 below]
  • ‘We are convinced that we can provide quality education at Chapel Primary School for the children at Combs for less than half the price’.
  • ‘Councillor Taylor has misled the people of Combs. I have no authority whatsoever to stop this consultation. Clearly our view is to close the school. It is up to the local community to come up with the written evidence to stop it. I have been helpful in suggesting the only areas that would change our opinion’.

The only evidence that would change the decision to close Combs school is, as stated by Councillor Charles:-

  • New pre-school data [to contradict the falling role issue].
  • The length of the journey to Chapel Primary for the relevant children in the school [as at September 2008].
  • The impact of closing the school on the continuance of the Village Hall and Church facility.

Note 1:
By ‘at the cost’ Councillor Charles obviously means ‘to the detriment’ rather than referring to the actual costs stated per pupil

Note 2:
‘Twice the price’ is misleading – it has already been stated that it costs £3,320 to educate each child at Chapel as against the above quoted county average of ‘£2,600’. The actual cost per child at Combs is £5,447 not £5,700 as stated. Even if you add the current Combs 26 pupils into the 465 published roll for Chapel (from OfSTED 2004), the per pupil cost remains at over £3,000.

DCC's version of the meeting is contained in their minutes.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Letter from Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council

You'll remember that Chapel-en-le-Frith Parish Council gave their unanimous support to keeping Combs School, Village Hall and Chapel open. This is part of the Council's letter to DCC.

The Parish Council have considered the matter fully and were represented at the public consultation meeting at the School on 22 May 2007.

Members were unanimous in their objection towards the proposed closure of the school. The Parish Council Ward Members have been involved in the life of the School and Village Hall over a considerable number of years, working with the Community and The Village Hall Trust to secure grant funding in 1992/93 through the Peak District National Park Authority and in 1996/97 through ACRE to enable the premises to be extended for the benefit of the School and Village Hall. It was noted that since that time there has been an increase in the number of pupils who live within the Parish boundary attending the School. More recently the Council has worked in partnership with the Village Hall Trust to provide play equipment for the community on adjacent land.

Combs Infants School is an outstanding School, which fulfils a proven need within the Parish of Chapel-en-le-Frith. In addition to this the building is a focal point in the community as the Village Hall and Methodist Church. The Village Hall Trust is active within the community and the loss of income that would result if the School were to close would mean that its viability would be seriously compromised along with the provision of a place of worship. The culmination of all this would have a negative effect on Village life.

In rural communities it is important that there is place where the community can come together and the joint use of the building by the School, Village Hall and Church reaches out to the community as a whole, with their viability and long term survival being inter dependant on each other. The delivery by the Countryside Agency of the Rural White Paper underlined this point and initiatives such as the Combs model of joint use of a building were championed and funded. It is felt that Derbyshire County Council has a duty of care to the community as a whole, of which the provision of a School in the community is a part.

For these reasons the Parish Council wishes to lodge a strong objection towards the proposed closure of Combs Infants School.

Answer to Parliamentary Question

See this post for the answer to Tom Levitt's written Parliamentary question.