Controversial plans to close a West Wight primary school will go to a third consultation, after Isle of Wight councillors voted in favour of proposals tonight (Thursday).
As previously reported by Isle of Wight Radio, the local authority has been consulting on plans to tackle surplus places.
It wants to close Freshwater’s All Saints primary in April 2020 – postponed from December – and move pupils to Yarmouth Primary temporarily.
It then proposes moving pupils to a newly-refurbished All Saints site in 2021. The council says work will be funded by the Department for Education.
Tonight, eight councillors voted to take plans to the next stage. One Councillor – Deputy Council Leader Stuart Hutchinson – abstained from voting.
Addressing his peers, he labelled the plans “flawed” and “strange”. He said:
“Education will be substantially and adversely affected by the current proposal… it will not be a Yarmouth school, it will be a resurrected All Saints one. Why would the future governors agree to that?
“I believe that this report does not achieve the best available solution.”
Councillor Hutchinson proposed deferring tonight’s decision, saying “doing it right is better than doing it quick, even if it takes longer”. However, his amendment was voted down by fellow councillors.
It means a public notice consultation on the recommendations will be published next Friday (19) with Island residents again able to make their views known.
The council says it has extended the consultation period from four to nine weeks to take account of the school summer holidays.
The consultation will close on 20 September.
Councillor Paul Brading, Cabinet member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, says he will not let the “transition” affect the education of Island children.
“It’s about having to do something to give that sustainability in the future.
“The last thing I would want is five schools in the West Wight all becoming under financial pressure – because that causes a real problem – and have decisions forced upon the schools rather than consulting openly and honestly.”
As reported, parents have previously raised concerns about whether the Yarmouth site could cope with more students, even if it is temporary.
Councillor Brading told Isle of Wight Radio that the move would be carefully managed.
Yesterday (Wednesday), the Diocese of Portsmouth admitted proposed changes could be disruptive and said it would work alongside the Isle of Wight Council.
A final decision on the future of primary schools in the West Wight is due to be made at Cabinet on 10 October.