Saturday, 19 February 2011

Briefing From Onny School Governors.

Shropshire Council’s Cabinet decided on Tuesday 15 February to continue to progress their school organisation proposals without any amendments. This includes the closure of Onny School much to the dismay of the local community and especially the children, parents, staff and Governors.

Onny CE School Governors believe that this decision does not offer the best solution for the future education of children in the area, being based on misleading data and flawed thinking by their officers. The poor quality of the consultation data has been formally reported to the Council’s Director of Children and Young Peoples Services on 25 November 2010, but no reply has been forthcoming from him.

The Governors believe that there is a strong case for Onny CE School remaining open and are actively planning for the future. To this end we have appointed a new, very experienced head teacher to replace Mr Phil Dale who is retiring at the end of March.

There is widespread recognition that things cannot remain as they are against the background of reducing numbers of pupils and associated grant settlements. Onny Governors accept this but do not consider it sensible to close schools before all other options have been full explored and evaluated. This is something the Independent Policy Commission, set up by the former County Council, recommended but has not been adopted by the present Council in their decisions so far.

During the previous consultation meetings over the previous 9 months, our head and Onny Governors have consistently indicated a willingness to explore collaborative arrangements in detail with other schools under the general direction of the Council. To date this has not happened and they now feel obliged to contact other schools in the area direct in an attempt to form effective organisational arrangements in a cluster group/federation that will deliver cost savings in the medium to longer term. They have not received a satisfactory explanation from Shropshire Council as to why 20 other schools were strongly recommended to federate but Onny School was excluded and recommended for closure. The Cabinet report identifies a saving of approximately £36k if Onny School closes. This is the lowest of all the potential savings by a significant margin and could easily be offset by sharing a head-teacher for example.

Depending on the outcome, of the approach to other schools, Onny Governors will seek to form a federation with one or more schools and a business case will be prepared for the Council to consider during the next consultation period that ends on April 8. It is hoped they will then agree for Onny School to remain open.

Should this course of action (the preferred course) be rejected, a vigorous case will be made during the remaining closure timetable to highlight the deficiencies that we believe exist in the Council’s consultation and decision-making processes. At the same time investigations will be taking place into Onny School becoming either an academy or free school outside the control of the Council.