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Thursday, 12 July 2007

Peak District Park Authority
Concerned by Impact on Community

Jim Dixon, the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, has written to DCC to express the Authority's concerns over the proposed closure of Combs School, with the knock-on threat to the Village Hall and Chapel.

Mr. Dixon's letter says, "We feel that the muti-use of one building for a school, village hall and community church at Combs is an excellent example of partnership community use and are concerned that the proposed school closure should not threaten the financial viability of the community facility."

You can view the letter here (PDF format).

At the Mercy of Politicians

The following letter from the Chair of Governors at Combs Infant School appeared in today's Buxton Advertiser.

I think Sue Oliver's letter* to your newspaper last week was correct and the governors of Combs Infant School value the close working relationship and the professionalism of all the schools in this area.

The final date for comment on the initial proposal has now passed and I must pay tribute to the fantastic campaign that has been waged by everybody in the Combs community, from the parents at the school to all those people who value the village hall and the church as a focal point.

We have proved that the village depends on a robust partnership of school and Village Hall Trust, the latter rescuing the school by raising money to repair the church and later to provide excellent classroom and toilet facilities through contributions and a successful bid to the Lottery Fund.

There is no doubt all this will be swept away if the school closes.

We now have the actual figures, proving that the cost of running the school** last year is far lower than the cost put forward by Councillor Alan Charles, down from £5,447 to £4,059. Central Government and local government all agree that it costs more to run a rural school than an urban school but these figures show that Combs Infant School costs a lot less than most rural schools, again thanks to the contributions from the local community.

Nearly all the children come from less than three miles away from the school and parents have carried out a survey proving that there will be at least 37 children of pre-school age in the natural recruiting area in the next four years.

Parents are angry and concerned because they believe they have the right to choose four to seven schools for their children and that is the policy of the present government in Westminster.

Combs Infant School is now at the mercy of the politicians who run the county.

All the local authorities and organisations we know about in the High Peak have pledged support for the school.

It is not a party political issue and all three major parties in the area have asked the County Council to reconsider their proposal.

The statutory guidance published alongside the 2006 Education Act has not been followed so far and the Council seems to have ignored even their own guidelines in school re-organisation, so we move to the decision in the hope that they will realise this when they study the case for Combs in detail and vote overwhelmingly to retain this outstanding school which is in the top three per cent of infant schools nationally.

Nye Rowlands
Chair of Governors
Combs Infant School
* Ms Oliver's letter to the Buxton Advertiser, which appeared in the 5 July edition, can be read here.

** These costs are, of course, cost-per-pupil.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Thank You, Letter Writers!

Just received this message from the school:

The staff at Combs Infant School"Please put a message on the web site with a thank you from all the staff for the overwhelming support we have had with the letter writing. If DCC read all the comments there is no way they can proceed with this stupid idea!"

Monday, 9 July 2007

High Peak Borough Council:
Their Response to DCC In Full

Here is the reponse to DCC from High Peak Borough Council, following the meeting that we reported earlier.


Following a full debate of the Social Inclusion Select Committee of High Peak Borough Council on Monday 25th June 2007 I set out below the official response of the High Peak Borough Council.

The infants school at Combs is an outstanding school as described by the latest Ofsted inspection. The closure of it would be detrimental in many ways.

It would result in upheaval for many children and parents not just in the short term during the closure, but on an ongoing basis as parents, children and yourself as the Authority would be faced with logistical problems of getting the children to and from alternative schools. This would also have an impact in environmental terms, as car journeys, bus transport would all have to increase.

Whilst you quote various cost implications, Members felt that these were unsustainable, due to the figures being distorted by such things as the level of Small School Protection Funding enjoyed by Combs school, which creates an artificial impression that Combs does not offer the same value for money as other schools across Derbyshire.

Members felt that the closure of the school would have impacts beyond the educational ones in terms of community facilities for the village of Combs. The placement of the school within the village hall underpins the very existence of the hall and its use by the community. It is highly likely that this would be lost as a result of any school closure thereby having a wider detrimental effect on the village of Combs and also the local groups that use the Hall.

In summary, the Council would like to reinforce the following observations

  • We cannot support the closure of an Ofsted rated ‘outstanding’ school, resulting in the possibility of High Peak children being displaced to schools further away and not of their choice. This is in direct conflict with any ‘choice’ agenda

  • It is not proven that the closure will in any way help to reduce the surplus places at Chapel school, on the contrary the case has been made that it will have no effect on the problem

  • It is highly likely that the closure of the school will result in the eventual loss of the only remaining community facility in the village of Combs

  • The loss of the facility would then go on to threaten the existence of other local community Groups

  • The financial reasoning is inconsistent, vague and therefore not justifiable

  • The impact on traffic would result in greater CO2 emissions through increased journeys, or alternatively result in the possibility of children being forced to into unacceptable waiting times for transport to and from school

  • There is a presumption against closure of rural schools and the case for such a closure should be strong. We believe that the case is not strong
In conclusion, the Council strongly opposes the proposal to close Combs Infant School and urges Derbyshire County Council to retain and support the school.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Andrew Bingham
Member of the Executive