Efforts by the community to save Chillerton and Rookley Primary School from closure have taken an interesting turn.
The Isle of Wight Council is currently running an informal consultation on closing the school at the request of the Stenbury Federation, which runs it along with Godshill Primary School. It claims that the school is not viable because of low pupil numbers.
The Save Our School (SOS) committee is now working on a business case to defederate the school from the foundation, and transform Chillerton and Rookley into a school that, as well as educating pupils in the usual way, provides flexible or flexi-schooling to support pupils that are home-educated.
According to Home Education UK, flexi-schooling describes an arrangement between parents and school in which children are registered at the school but attend classes on a part-time basis and are home educated for the rest of the time. The number of children educated under flexi-schooling arrangements is growing and there are now several schools around the UK said to be specialising as flexi-schools.
The proposals follow the news that, since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a 21 per cent increase in parents choosing to home educate on the Island, bringing the total to more than three percent against a national average of less than one per cent.
A spokesman for the SOS group said: “There is such a huge demand for flexi-schooling on our Island. From parents who feel their children are not ready for full-time school, to home educators who need more structured support. This plan would be of such a great benefit to our whole Island community.”
Another parent added: “This will address the safeguarding concerns regarding home-schooling families. I can’t understand why the Local Authority has not considered this before. The number of parents choosing to home-school their children is a reflection of sentiment towards the Island’s educational strategy.”
Meanwhile a member of the Isle of Wight Council’s Policy and Scrutiny Committee for education has spoken out saying the school should be given a chance to show whether the new plans can work. Councillor Karl Love explained that the committee now needed to understand the views of the local community. He said: “These plans sound interesting. The logic to me is to give them at least a year to see if they can be made to work and attract pupils. It’s important to realise that you’re not just talking about closing a school, you need to consider the effect it will have on the whole community.”
He added that campaigners should also look at whether there is something else going on, such as what plans there may be for the building should the school close.
The SOS group are also looking at the finances of the school, including a charge for ‘brought in professional services’, that shot up from £20,000 to £60,000 over the course of a year.