Isle of Wight councillors have tonight (Thursday) voted to close Freshwater’s All Saints Primary School – but plans will only go ahead if governors agree to the relocation of Yarmouth C E.
At a cabinet meeting held in Whitwell, councillors voted unanimously to move forward with the controversial proposals.
In a bid to tackle surplus school places in the West Wight, the local authority wants to shut All Saints from 31 August 2020 and move Yarmouth to the Freshwater site from the start of the academic year 2021/22.
However, it does not have the power to make voluntary-aided Yarmouth relocate. That will be decided by the Federation of the Church Schools of Shalfleet and Yarmouth on Monday (13).
At tonight’s meeting, members of the public voiced concerns over the impact relocation plans could have on the Yarmouth community. One audience member said:
“30 businesses say they will be affected by the relocation of Yarmouth Primary. Whether it is going for coffee after dropping the kids off at school… or going to the hairdressers. I feel the impact on local businesses has been overlooked.”
However, Councillor Paul Brading hit back saying that the council “has fully considered the implication” of any move.
“The local authority fully believes supporting this proposal is a strong way forward. The multi-million pound investment [which will be used to develop the All Saints primary site] will benefit the area and the wider community. The Yarmouth site could be re-purposed to benefit the area.”
If governors decide not to relocate Yarmouth C E, the council says it will either consult on new plans to close the school and keep All Saints open – or consult on a proposal to close both schools and open a new academy.
Last week, campaign group ‘Keep Yarmouth School In Yarmouth’ threatened governors with legal action. As previously reported by Isle of Wight Radio, it argued that its consultation on the proposals were ‘legally flawed’ because governors had already made their minds up.
Tonight, the group’s Steve Cowley warned that it is “well-funded” and “won’t back down”.
Speaking to Isle of Wight Radio after the meeting, Councillor Brading said:
“No decision has been made by the governing body. They have asked our support to consult. Everyone has a right to their own opinion and a judicial review if they wish. This is about the children to me. It’s not about legal battles and how much money people have got. I’d be disappointed if a review is served on the governing body.”
The decision now rests on the decision of Yarmouth governors.
If the school is relocated, Councillor Brading says two implementation groups – made up of governors, staff, council officers – will be formed.
He says that there is a possibility All Saints pupils could remain at the Freshwater site whilst work gets carried out, if deemed safe.