Chillerton & Rookley will keep its school

By Carole Dennett May 9, 2022

Campaigners are celebrating after the Isle of Wight Council announced that Chillerton and Rookley Primary School is to remain open.

The future of the school has been uncertain ever since the former Conservative administration undertook a consultation on closure of the school, initiated by the Stenbury Federation which governs it and Godshill Primary School. They wanted to close Chillerton and Rookley Primary, a designated rural school, with a government presumption against closure, and amalgamate it with Godshill Primary. However the original consultation was described by campaigners as ‘a fiasco’, as it failed to include important information, with one key document only added to the website 11 days after the consultation closed. A complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman was made over that and other issues.

The incoming Alliance administration also consulted on the future of the school, but according to campaign group Save Our School (SOS), they ‘actually listened to what they were told’.

This afternoon a statement was issued by Cllr Debbie Andre, the cabinet member responsible for education confirming that the school is to remain open. The Stenbury Federation has not yet issued a statement about how they will deal with the council’s decision or whether they will continue to run Chillerton and Rookley.

Chairman of the SOS Campaign, Nigel Phillips said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Isle of Wight Council has seen the value of rural schools and acted accordingly. This administration has consulted and actually listened to local people and what they were told. I would like to express my thanks to the IW Observer which has supported us throughout the campaign.”

The full text of Cllr Andre’s statement is below.  Read this week’s IW Observer on Friday for more details.

When this administration took office in May 2021 it inherited a consultation about the future of Chillerton and Rookley Primary School with an emphasis on the potential amalgamation with Godshill, therefore effectively closing Chillerton and Rookley. Many members of the new administration were concerned by the consultation initiated by the previous administration and the direction of travel towards closure and made public commitments that they would do everything possible to prevent the closure of small village primary schools on the Island. We believe that schools are one of the fundamental pillars of a community and that they play a vital and central role in village life, especially within our rural communities. There are social as well as economic benefits to children of primary age attending local schools with small classes.

We intend to honour those commitments and in line with our corporate priority of providing local schools for local children, I can announce today that Chillerton and Rookley Primary School will remain open, and we won’t be proceeding with issuing a public notice to commence amalgamation with Godshill leading to closure.

This announcement ends the uncertainty around the future of the school, and we hope that more parents will want to apply for places at their local school, confident that there will be continuity in their child’s academic journey.

Throughout this period of uncertainty, the headteacher, staff and governors have continued, under difficult circumstances, to maintain the quality of education on offer at both Godshill and Chillerton and Rookley and I would like to pay tribute to their professionialism.

It is important that we continue to focus on improving the quality of education so that children experience high-quality provision including a rich and rounded curriculum. I have therefore asked officers to ensure the school is well supported moving forward so that it has the necessary capacity to deliver the ambitions we all share for our Island children.

Education Officers are now investigating options as to how we support our smaller and more rural primary schools so that they can be sustained during periods of falling numbers and financial challenges, particularly in light of the Government’s new White Paper on education. The Alliance Administration is committed to this course and I am working closely with the officers who have been tasked with working up viable proposals, so that they can be brought forward as soon as possible for consideration.