To consider a report from the Cabinet Members – Children’s Services and the Corporate Director – Children’s Services (copy enclosed).
The Chair had agreed to vary the order of business to facilitate the earlier consideration of this item given the level of public interest.
The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented a report which provided feedback from consultations on whether to bring forward statutory proposals for the provision of additional primary school places in Carlisle (consultation documents appendices B, D, F refers) and Penrith (consultation document appendix H refers) to address growth in pupil numbers. It also provided feedback from consultations on the possible closure of Captain Shaw’s CE Primary School in Bootle (consultation document appendix J refers).
The Cabinet Member addressed the issue of Captain Shaw’s school and advised that it was the smallest school in the County with just 16 pupils on roll only 9 of whom lived in the catchment area. The school comprised 2 rooms upstairs in the village hall and there was no lift meaning the facility was not DDA compliant. There was no full time permanent Headteacher and all staff were on fixed term contracts as it was difficult to attract permanent teachers to the school. The last Ofsted in 2009 had been good with outstanding features though all staff had changed since that time and there were now concerns over standards. Levels of performance were below the national average. The school was landlocked and not able to expand whereas the next nearest school, Waberthwaite could accommodate the pupils and did have room to expand if necessary. The school was forecast to be in deficit by more than the 8% permissible during 2014 and spent only 6% of its budget on resources against the average of at least 10%. In terms of cost per pupil place Captain Shaw’s amounted to £7460 per pupil against £5552 at Waberthwaite and £3831 the County average. The proposal was to move to statutory consultation on the closure of a very small school with pupils transferring to Waberthwaite. He advised that thus far 60 representations had been received 80% of which opposed closure.
Copeland Local Committee were concerned about the potential closure more so with the proposed new housing being built. The school had considered federation with Waberthwaite but neither school favoured this approach other options included redrawing the catchment area but this would be a longer term initiative. The Lake District National Park Authority had indicated their continued support for the school but had not implied that closure would affect the village’s Rural Service Centre status. Ultimately the Cabinet Member’s view was that the school was too small to provide the breadth of education, was not DDA compliant and was not viable to continue. The proposal to issue statutory proposals for closure was based on a desire to champion the best education for all children and was not driven by any financial imperative.
Mr Cole, County Councillor for Millom addressed Cabinet on behalf of parents and the community of Bootle. He advised that the local community supported the school and wished to see it retained. The school was at the heart of a vibrant community and its closure would have serious repercussions for its continued sustainability. The loss of the school would make the village less attractive to young families and could not come at a worse time with the proposed expansion of Sellafield which would potentially bring new families to the area.
Mrs Brown, County Councillor for Seascale and Whicham addressed Cabinet on behalf of parents and the community of Bootle. She confirmed that the community had been very active over the years in seeking to protect the school from the threat of closure. Bootle and Waberthwaite were two distinct communities and neither school favoured federation. She acknowledged that some parents in the area had lost confidence in the school but this could be attributed to it having been under the threat of closure for many years.
Cabinet Members asked a series of questions concerning the catchment area, potential developments, whether the pupils were disadvantaged educationally and by the building itself of the Cabinet Member and Corporate Director. In terms of attainment it was noted that pupils at Captain Shaw’s consistently did less well than the national average and that the building did provide a challenge to delivering the best education.
In response Ms Hardwick disputed the assertion that very small schools could not be successful and cited a number of examples nationwide.
Members discussed the range of proposals for schools in Carlisle and Penrith which were generally supported by the schools concerned. Cabinet considered the reasons for the recommendation in respect of reprovision of the Pennine Way school, as opposed to the building of a new smaller school and expansion of the existing school which would have then been operating in very close proximity.
The Cabinet Member moved revised recommendations which were agreed as set out below.
(1) Cabinet publish statutory notices to expand:
· Kingmoor Nursery and Infant School to a PAN of 75 from 1 September 2012.
· Kingmoor Junior School to a PAN of 75 from 1 September 2014.
· Yewdale Primary to a PAN of 60 from 1 September 2012.
· Newtown Primary to a PAN of 30 from 1 September 2012.
· Brook Street Primary to a PAN of 45 from 1 September 2012.
· St Cuthbert’s RC Primary to a PAN of 30 from 1 September 2012.
· Pennine Way Primary to a PAN of 90 from 1 September 2012 and rebuild the school as Pennine Way Primary on the former NCTC site with a proposed opening date of 1 September 2014.
· Robert Ferguson Primary to a PAN of 60 from 1 September2012.
· Upperby Primary to a PAN of 60 from 1 September 2012.
· St Catherine’s RC Primary to a PAN of 20 from 1 September 2012
(2) Cabinet publish statutory notices to
· Expand of Petteril Bank School to a PAN of 30 from 1 September 2012.
· Cease to maintain Captain Shaw’s School, Bootle with effect from 31 August 2012;
(3) Cabinet agrees:
· the expansion of Inglewood Infant School to a PAN of 90 from 1 September 2012.
· The expansion of Inglewood Junior School to a PAN of 90 from September 2012.
· support the Governors of St Bede’s Primary School to expand to a PAN of 30 for 1 September 2012
(4) Cabinet notes that the decisions which require statutory notices to be published will trigger the beginning of a formal representation period, during which interested parties can submit their views on the proposals. Following the end of this period, Cabinet will make a decision on whether to implement the proposals on 15 March 2012.