CALL IN REQUEST – CABINET MEMBER DECISION CAB 01/20/21 – SMALL SCHOOLS PROPOSALS
Following a meeting of the Cabinet on 22 April 2020 it resolved to support a number of proposals relating to the future of various small schools. This call-in request relates specifically to the following two proposals of that decision only:
- Issue a closure notice for Clapham and Patching C of E Primary School, Clapham, Worthing, but maintaining the building open for the Autumn half term to allow those children without suitable school places to be supported to transition to a new school should schools not return to normal opening during the summer due to the current Covid-19 situation.
- Issue closure notice for Rumboldswhyke C of E Infant School, Chichester, but maintaining the building open for the Autumn half term to allow those children without suitable school places to be supported to transition to a new school should schools not return to normal opening during the summer due to the current Covid-19 situation.
It is noted that:
The County Council adopted a new policy relating to the viability of small schools in October 2018 through its school effectiveness strategy specifically to enable it to embark on the process of closing a number of small primary schools in the light of government policies relating to school funding and academisation of schools.
The Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee recommended that neither of these two schools should close. Recommendations which have been ignored by the Cabinet.
Reasons for the call-in request:
The resolutions relating to the closure of Clapham and Patching and Rumboldswhyke are flawed. They provide for the school buildings to remain open for the Autumn half term to allow the children without suitable school places to be supported to transition to a new school should schools not return to normal opening during the summer due the current Covid 19 situation.
It is noted that the two schools could be permitted to remain open until Friday 23 October 2020 to provide additional time for this to take place if schools do not return to normal opening hours during the summer. However this ‘concession’ does not provide an adequate opportunity for parents to visit fully operational schools to make an informed decision about where their child should move to in order to continue their education. Furthermore, it has not been made clear what the position is relating to the provision of teaching at these schools during the Autumn term. Especially given that it is likely that redundancy notices will be prepared and will be published in line with the timing of this decision-making process. There needs to be some clarity around the extent to which adequate teaching staff will be available to deliver an education during the Autumn half term if that becomes necessary.
Like many others, the children who currently attend these schools and their parents are currently under considerable stress due to the current pandemic which has and continues to have a negative impact on the provision of their education and their wellbeing. The need for these children to move to a new school will undoubtedly increase the negative impact on their wellbeing and prolong the negative impact on their education. These resolutions do not put children first.
The decision to close Rumboldswhyke was pre-determined and options to sustain its future were blocked – made evident by the disclosure of correspondence which makes clear a discussion took place with the Regional Schools Commissioner who agreed not to put an academy order through on the understanding that we are aiming to move to close the school by the end of the academic year 2019-20.
As supported by the Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee, it is considered that Clapham and Patching C of E Primary School does not meet the conditions determined by the Department for Education for the closure of a rural school.
It is possible that a legal challenge of some aspects of this decision will be sought. A call in of this decision is essential so that members can be satisfied that the Cabinet have not left the council liable to a successful challenge of the decision by judicial review.
For a review of the legal position in relation to the proposed closure of Clapham and Patching C of E Primary School and Rumboldswhyke C of E Infant School to establish whether the County Council is at risk of a judicial review or other course of legal action; and
For the proposed closures of Clapham and Patching C of E Primary School and Rumboldswhyke C of E Infant School to be reversed, or at the very minimum delayed until the end of a new school term in July 2021 to provide adequate time for transitional arrangements to be made taking into account the fact that schools are not fully operational and are unlikely to be so for some time.
This call-in request is submitted by Michael Jones, Leader of the Labour Group and supported by: