'The damage is done' — Council slammed over primary schools fiasco

The three Isle of Wight schools under a new threat of closure. <i>(Image: Google Streetview.)</i>
The three Isle of Wight schools under a new threat of closure. (Image: Google Streetview.)

'Extremely badly handled' — the Isle of Wight Council has been slammed for the way it announced, and then consequently reversed, on a decision to close four primary schools.

Last month, the authority announced its intention to consult on the future of three schools — Cowes, St Mary's Roman Catholic and Wroxall.

It was also looking to amalgamate Chillerton and Rookley Primary with its sister Godshill, effectively closing the smaller rural school.

Due to the fierce backlash the proposals received, last week, the authority withdrew them and it is now seeking a different approach.

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Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting last night (Tuesday), councillors expressed their dismay over the proposals and how it was communicated to the public.

Wroxall representative Cllr Rodney Downer said it had been extremely badly handled, causing consternation with parents, pupils, staff and the wider community.

He said it was very insensitive as it was announced the day before schools broke up and it seemed to be based on statistics, not worrying about people.

Cllr Debbie Andre, the cabinet member for children's education said there was a lot of misunderstanding and confusion and stressed no school closures had been proposed, only consultation.

She recognised lessons could be learnt from the way things were handled and apologised for how upsetting it may have been for all those concerned.

Cllr Karl Love said he was less than impressed with how the information was released as it had caused a lot of concerns.

School closures, however, were inevitable, he said, and were long overdue.

Cllr Joe Lever said the broader issue that needed tackling was the government funding model for schools which would continue to mean low pupil numbers would equal school closures.

The scrutiny committee recommended there should be more communication with schools before the proposals were published; more rigorous evidence on why those schools were chosen; and if other options had been considered and dismissed.

Cllr Downer felt the damage had already been done due to the panic it has created as parents may look to move their child from the schools.

The matter will be discussed further at the council's policy and scrutiny committee for children's education.