Shelton Lower School’s future scrutinised
Central Bedfordshire Council’s (CBC) Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee today (25 July 2018) was asked to consider the proposal of the director of children’s services that Shelton Lower School should close on 31 August 2019.
This consideration is the third stage of five for closing a rural school.
The report given by Chris Kiernan, interim head of school improvement, said that pupil numbers had fallen over the last two years. The low pupil numbers means that the school has become unviable.
Locals spoke to defend the school
Three local people spoke on behalf of the school. One, Jennifer Drew explained how campaigners have worked to increase the number of pupils applying to start at the school.
She also pointed out that the consolation has scared off potential parents from sending their children to the school.
Chris Kiernan admitted that the council’s own research also showed the threat of closure was a concern amongst parents.
He said that all the observations and objections from those opposed to closing the school had been addressed. The Committee was told that 60 pupils are needed to be viable, and with cost cutting this could possibly fall to 55. However, the numbers projected are around 30.
Confusion with the numbers
A slide shown by Chris Kiernan (above) showed how the deficit would increase between October 2018 and October 2021. Schools receive funding based on pupil numbers. Even though the number of pupils was predicted to increase from 29 to 39, the school’s income was shown to fall.
The committee asked that these figures are broken down when the proposal is presented to the Executive Committee next month.
Sue Harrison, the director of children’s services was happy that she has made the correct decision to close Shelton Lower School. When asked if enough time was given to save the school she said that increased consultation time increases the uncertainty over a school, both for parents and for staff. She added that there was no light at the end of the tunnel to justify extra funding.
This now passes onto the Council Executive (7th August). If the executive does determine that the school should be closed, stage 4 is a four week period for ‘permitted appeals’.
Stage 5 is the implementation of the closure. This must be on the date the executive states the school must be closed.