A campaign group fighting to keep a small village primary school open are calling foul over the latest consultation process on its future, after the results of the previous consultation were scrapped.
The Save our School (SOS) group, which is seeking to secure the future of Chillerton & Rookley Primary School, say the current consultation, which simply gives seven options for the future of the school, including closure, and then asks for comments, doesn’t meet the legal requirements of a consultation to close a school. The group has taken legal advice and been told that previous High Court rulings have determined that there is a requirement for consultations to provide “adequate and sufficient information to enable intelligent, considered response.”
The previous consultation, launched under the Conservative administration, was also criticised for serious failings, including that it was not even clear what the consultation was about. It originally seemed the school was to be closed, but a document added to the website after the end of the consultation, indicated the proposal was to amalgamate the school with Godshill Primary. A complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman was halted when the incoming Alliance administration scrapped the previous consultation and started a new one.
The Island Free School is said to be willing to look at the possibility of becoming an academy sponsor of the primary school, but SOS says the IW Council is failing to properly consider any options that would keep the school open. They also claim that the form can be completed multiple times by the same person, with no contact details asked for, enabling the results of the consultation to be easily skewed and therefore meaningless.
Nigel Phillips, chairman of SOS, said: “There seems to be a determination to close the school come what may. I see no indication of a willingness to talk to a school willing to take it over. The limitations of the consultation provision on the website just confirm that it is not a serious or meaningful exercise.”
The consultation has just three questions about the future of the school, followed by eight questions on ethnicity, gender, sexuality and other matters unrelated to the school.
Cllr Debbie Andre, the council’s cabinet member responsible for education, was asked to clarify if the exercise is a statutory consultation and whether government guidelines had been followed but she failed to respond.
You can complete the consultation until December 17 at: surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ChillertonAndRookleyPrimarySchool.
Pictured: Nigel Phillips