Day 197 – Save Lower Schools

November 13, 2009

A long long time ago, when our group of parents, grandparents, teachers and governors decided to get together to fight the seemingly inevitable decision to change our school system, we named ourselves after the most obvious casualty – hence Save Middle Schools.

Today we are sorely tempted to rename the campaign Save Lower Schools as the long-term casualties will be our excellent lower schools who will be underfunded, overcrowded and struggling for decades to metamorphose into primary schools under this proposal.

In recent days we have highlighted the financial nightmare that has been recommended by the final report. Only £27.2M of funding is allocated for the lower-primary switch, cobbled together from every available source – future government funding, sales of land, proceeds from housing developments, “top-slicing” of schools budgets (that’s robbing Peter to pay Paul to you and me).

If any one of these is lower than expected, or if any overspend occurs, then there really is no more money, as Michael Headley – the Finance portfolio holder – told the Executive on Wednesday evening.

What is worse than this is that the £27.2M will only pay for the shell of classrooms – it doesn’t cover any extra toilets, circulation space, corridors, chairs, tables, resources, extra staff space, enlarged halls, specialist space for the different requirements of Years 5 and 6, etc etc.

In a decade when Government spending will have to be reduced dramatically in order to curb public debt, and education budgets post-2011 have already been targeted, this really will be a catastrophe.

Unfortunately, portacabins will be the result – and many of those are still around on school sites from the last time we changed school structure in the 1970s !

Lower School governing bodies almost without reservation recommended that they support the School Organisation Review during the consultation process – but they didn’t have this information at that time.

SMS wonders how many governors realise what the future holds? How many would support this recommendation now? How many governing bodies of Trust or Foundation schools would now consider legal action against the authority for not revealing this important financial information as part of the consultation process.

The only hope we have is that sufficient councillors will listen to the arguments than having blind faith in the future on Monday night. You can help by contacting councillors and letting them know how you feel, and by being present at the Council Meeting – 6:30 on Monday 16th November in the Harpur Suite at the Corn Exchange.