Tensions ran high during a packed public meeting at Yarmouth C Of E Primary School this evening (Wednesday).
LISTEN: Isle of Wight Radio’s Oliver Dyer spoke to those at the meeting.
Parents and children alike filled the school’s hall to hear about plans which could see Freshwater’s All Saints Primary shut and Yarmouth Primary eventually relocate there.
At the meeting, audience members heard how All Saints’ potential closure would force its 81 students to be temporarily relocated to Yarmouth. That news was met with cries of “there’s not enough room” from those in attendance.
If plans are approved, pupils from both school would be transferred to the All Saints site once expansion work has been carried out.
However, any suggestion of moving Yarmouth Primary School out of the town has been met with outrage from residents.
At tonight’s meeting, Jaimie Jehu, whose son goes to the school, told Isle of Wight Radio that proposals need a rethink:
“It came to me as a shock. I always thought that his future at the school would be fine and he’d get a good education for the time he was here.
“The school they’re intending to shut is one that needs improving and is not meeting those improvements.
“The location of the school in Yarmouth is amazing and there is so much here within walking distance. The preschool and the school itself use a lot of facilities here.”
Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, Councillor Paul Brading launched a four-week public consultation into the plans last week – the second since March.
He did not attend tonight’s meeting, however four council officers did. One of those, Richard Vaughn, told audience members that something needs to be done because there is “too many school places across the West Wight” and a “dwindling number of children needing them.”
During the meeting, concerns were raised about the disruption that could be caused by moving children close to when they will be taking their SATS tests.
Former teacher Jill Cowley recalled when schools on the Isle of Wight were moved from two-tier to three. She said:
“We were tasked to look after one cohort of children who were particularly disadvantaged.
“A lot of those children did not make it [to their tests], they lost it on the way. They were too distressed.”
Speaking to Isle of Wight Radio before the meeting, Councillor Paul Brading said he was confident any movements would be managed effectively:
“If we go down that route, there is a strategic route that will be set up to manage through all the minor points of the transport, the safety and the integration.
“If that is the decision made we will give ourselves time to put all the bits in place to make it work properly.”
According to the council, only seven out of 91 students who currently attend Yarmouth CE Primary School live in Yarmouth, with 69 travelling from Freshwater.
Yarmouth Mayor Steve Cowley blasted the plans – telling members of the audience how it would “rip the heart out of the community”.
He said it is a good school – as rated by Ofsted – and “that is why so many people from Freshwater come here.”
Parents from All Saints were also present. Mother-of-two, Carly Wyre Nock, was met with jeers from the crowd when she backed the new proposals. She said:
“We believe 100% that this is the right decision in regards to keeping a site in Freshwater and expanding it.
“Nobody is ever 100% happy with every proposal but I’m just trying to look at the bigger picture.
“If people step back and look at the facts and figures and the longevity of the site. If you were going to build a site anywhere you’d build it where All Saints’ site is.”
Councillor Brading has confirmed to Isle of Wight Radio that the final decision will go before the Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet rather than a delegated decision.
As previously reported, Deputy Leader of the Isle of Wight Council Councillor Stuart Hutchinson confirmed he would vote down the plans.
A petition against proposals has so far gained around 200 signatures.
The public consultation can be filled out here.