Controversial plans to close Freshwater’s All Saints Primary School – and temporarily relocate pupils to Yarmouth C of E Primary – will go before the Isle of Wight Council’s Cabinet next week (11).
The plans could eventually see students move back to Freshwater in 2021 after “improvement works” at the All Saints site.
It comes after the conclusion of a second consultation into school places in the West Wight. It was launched after the local authority stressed the need to manage a surplus of pupil numbers.
Parents have previously raised concerns about whether the Yarmouth site could cope with more students.
Councillor Paul Brading – the man in charge of proposals – told Isle of Wight Radio that the move would be carefully managed:
“We can’t insist that all those children move to Yarmouth because parental choice overrides everything. I would like the All Saints cohort to stay together.
“One of the parts of the transition is to make sure that there is enough room on the Yarmouth site to make sure that students are inter-mixed with eachother and form what the school will feel like [when it eventually moves back to Freshwater].”
As part of the latest consultation, the council proposed closing All Saints C of E Primary School in December. But, Councillor Brading, says that new plans would now see it shut in April instead.
If approved by Cabinet next week, a public notice on the recommendations will be published on Friday (19) with people again able to make their views known.
Speaking to Isle of Wight Radio, Councillor Brading explained why the proposed closure date has been postponed:
“We have taken some of the comments on board. Some of those were ‘this appears to be rushed’. So we have looked at the timescales.
“The public notice consultation can start as early as the 19th of July but that full week period would drift into the summer holidays. I didn’t think it was right to do a consultation during the six-week summer break.
“So we have allowed four weeks either side of the holidays to make sure we do a fair consultation on the notice. That means we’re delaying the closure till April allowing more time to work with the school.”
The Green Party’s Vix Lowthion, also a Councillor for Freshwater Parish Council, has described the potential loss of Yarmouth Primary School as “deeply upsetting”.
She says the school is a popular one – and has been there for over a hundred years:
“No-one in the West Wight wants to see any of our schools closed – rural schools rightly have a degree of protection against closure. But Hampshire Education and our IW Council insist that the numbers of pupils and the funding just does not add up.
“In the longer term, investment in a 21st century school building in the large village of Freshwater is welcome, as for too long the West Wight has been ignored when it comes to updating our public services.
“However, in the short term there will be an immense amount of upheaval as pupils may need to be moved around sites, and this will cause a number of problems if not adequately planned for.”
If approved, all responses from the next consultation will be considered by the council.
A final decision on the future of primary schools in the West Wight would then be made at Cabinet on 10 October.