Council U-turn could mean schools stay open after all

Some of the Isle of Wight primary schools that could close, if a consultation finds in favour. <i>(Image: Google Maps.)</i>
Some of the Isle of Wight primary schools that could close, if a consultation finds in favour. (Image: Google Maps.)

Controversial proposals which could have led to the closure of four Isle of Wight primary schools have been pulled.

Following backlash and a petition to save one of the schools, the Isle of Wight Council has announced it is rethinking its efforts to address surplus school places on the Island.

Last week, the authority revealed it would look to consult on the closure of three primary schools — Cowes, St Mary's Roman Catholic and Wroxall.

It was also looking to amalgamate Chillerton and Rookley Primary School with its sister facility, Godshill, from January 1, 2024 — effectively closing another rural primary school.

Cllr Debbie Andre, the council's cabinet member for children's education, confirmed the proposals — in an official report — were being withdrawn from the executive meeting next week.

She said: "We have listened closely to all comments and representations and feel a different approach is necessary in view of the strength of our local communities."

A fuller statement would be issued at a later date, Cllr Andre said.

The authority says there are more than 200 extra primary school places on the Island, amid a significant fall in reception pupils, a declining birth rate and challenges to teacher recruitment and retention.

There are 39 primary schools on the Island but it said the reality is there are too many for the number of pupils.

School leaders on the Island have previously warned the authority that keeping too many schools open would risk condemning pupils to a mediocre education, as funding is stretched further.

The council said it was listening to those headteachers and school governors when proposing the difficult decisions but stressed none had been made yet.

Since announcing its plan, the council has been criticised with local union representatives saying it had come as a shock to staff, pupils and families and that a full consultation process must be undertaken.

The primary schools facing closure sought to reassure parents in newsletters that no decision had been made and it would be business as usual, providing the children's education.