Plans to close Yarmouth Primary School and relocate it to Freshwater have been branded ‘quite foolish’ by the deputy leader of the Isle of Wight Council.
Councillor Stuart Hutchinson, who is also the ward member for the West Wight, spoke at Yarmouth Town Council’s annual meeting yesterday, where the controversial plans were the subject of a heated debated.
He promised residents he would vote against the plans when they are brought before cabinet.
Although the decision to reorganise schools in the West Wight could be the subject of a delegated decision, member for education Councillor Paul Brading has told senior cabinet members it will be put to the cabinet for a vote.
Councillor Hutchinson, cabinet member for finance, said:
“We have a really good school and I don’t think we should sacrifice that because the people in Freshwater have said, ‘we have got a rotten school but we do not want it closed.’
“People power works. They had the numbers, and we are a much smaller community.”
Members of the public expressed concerns at the plans, which would see All Saints Primary School in Freshwater close, with the 81 pupils transferring to Yarmouth.
The Yarmouth school would then be closed, and relocated to an extensively refurbished All Saints site.
Yarmouth resident Helen Jones said:
“We can’t expand anymore. We have expanded until we are bursting.
“That would be a crazy learning environment — it will be crowded, there will be mobile buildings and toilets. Our infrastructure cannot take it.”
Only seven out of 91 students attending Yarmouth CE Primary School live in Yarmouth, with 69 travelling from Freshwater.
The council said the plans would retain primary provision in Freshwater and, with Yarmouth, retain a school rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.
However, residents of Yarmouth accused the council of ‘stealing the excellent teachers and staff’ at the school and moving them to Freshwater.
Former teacher Jill Cowley added:
“I was teaching on the Isle of Wight last time a major change was made. I can assure you that moving children to another school damages them entirely.
“We are being asked to damage an entire cohort of children.”
Residents voiced concerns that the community link with Yarmouth would be lost if the school were to move.
Mayor for Yarmouth, Councillor Steve Cowley, said:
“We will lose the beating heart of this community.
“The children won’t be brought back for the pancake races, the duck races.”
Parent Hannah Byers said:
“I have chosen to be a part of the Yarmouth community.”
Concerns were also raised about the parking provision at the All Saints site, and the additional workload it would create for the headteacher, staff and governing body.
A further meeting to discuss the plans will be held tonight (Wednesday), at Yarmouth Primary School, at 6pm.
A petition to ‘Keep Yarmouth School in Yarmouth’ has been circulated by parents and members of the community.
By Megan Baynes, Local Democracy Reporter