Shelton Lower School to close due to falling pupil numbers

Central Bedfordshire Council’s Executive has today (7 August, 2018) made the decision to close Shelton Lower School.

This comes after the Council consulted on the proposal to close due to a decline in pupil numbers and a forecast that this would continue.

The decision came despite presentations from school representatives, and ward councillor Cllr Robert Morris, that called into question the validity of the consultation process.

Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, Cllr Steve Dixon, said:

“This has been a very difficult decision and not one the Council has taken lightly.”

Shelton Lower School to close after Central Bedfordshire Council vote

Ward councillor called the closure process “flawed”

Before the vote, non-executive member, Cllr Morris said that the process was flawed and called for an internal enquiry. He also called into question over a dozen points (including pupil numbers) made in the report to close the school.

He said:

“We need to make sure that the processes are robust and transparent, neither of which can be positively attributed to the process in this situation.

“As a potential reason for closure is based on financial viability I believe that due to the major inaccuracies shown in the data that the consultation is flawed and therefore would be thrown out by the School Adjudicator on any appeal.”

School funding is based on pupil numbers

School funding relates to pupil numbers and the number of pupils on roll in October 2018 is forecast to be 29. This is 40 per cent of School’s capacity.

The school went into deficit earlier this year and in his presentation, interim head of school improvement, Chris Kiernan said that this deficit looks certain to worsen in the coming years.

Non-executive member, Cllr Ken Mathews, who also represents the ward for Shelton Lower School said:

“Even the best case scenario doesn’t provide what I would regard as a financial viability to enable the school to carry on as it is.

“So it is with regret I really can’t see that there is a case for it to remain open.”

An appeal can be made within the next four weeks

Following the Department for Education’s statutory five-stage process, the decision is now subject to a four-week period, during which time permitted appeals can be made until September 5.

Subject to appeals closure of Shelton Lower School, would take place on August 31, 2019.

Cllr Dixon said:

“We understand this is unsettling for the parents of pupils attending the school and we will of course work with them to find alternative suitable places for their children in other local schools over the coming year.”