Schools’ future “a done deal” despite consultations, parish council told

Bainbridge C of E primary and nursery school "must stay open" says council.

By Betsy Everett

The timescale for consulting parents about the future of three Wensleydale primary schools suggests a “done deal,” with only 10 working days between the submissions being made and the decision announced, a parish council has been told.

Meanwhile Bainbridge parish council said it had not been informed of last month’s consultation meetings, and one councillor had heard that before the consultation had even closed the children had been told which school they would be attending under the new arrangements in September.

“That supports a point I am making in my own submission: the time frame suggests to those of us who have been here before that this is a done deal. Having read through several trees’ worth of paper I’ve concluded this is all smoke and mirrors,” said resident Karen Prudden.
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Separate consultations on the future of the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton (BAWB) federation schools were held on Monday, February 26, after an announcement that extra government funding meant all three could stay open.

The deadline for submissions was this Friday, March 9, with the decision due on March 21 and an announcement the following day.

“In other words, they are giving themselves just ten days to read all those comments and make a decision,” said Mrs Prudden.

Five options had been set out with the one being recommended meaning early years pupils, aged three to five, being taught at Bainbridge, six to seven year olds at West Burton, and eight to 11 year olds at Askrigg.

Parish clerk Gillian Harrison said there was not enough information for parents to make a decision as the options had not been properly costed.

She told members: “I think it would be grossly unfair to endorse any of those options. One of them, the bussing around one, has not been even been put out to tender. They haven’t set out the school day; they haven’t said whether the children who are going to be apparently bussed to their registered school first and then transported to the next school will have their teaching hours restricted, or whether five and six year old children might be subjected to a longer school day. I just don’t think there is enough information for people to make an informed decision.”

Mrs Peacock asked that the parish council should write to the governors, expressing concern that they had not been invited to the public consultation meetings.

“What is concerning the council is that we have heard that the children have already been informed of where they are going to be by one of the teachers,” she said.

Mrs Prudden said that of all the options put forward, none included the possibility of closing Askrigg school, which had the biggest projected maintenance costs for the next financial year of £543,624: more than the maintenance costs of the two other schools put together.

“I would like the parish council to argue the case for the village [Bainbridge]retaining its school because what concerns me in here is that there are several options for Bainbridge school to close but none for Askrigg and I strongly dispute their arguments around that. I would be insulted that the parish council has not been involved in the consultation and I think we need to stand up and be fighting for our school,” she said.

Mrs Peacock said she heard a rumour that West Burton parents favoured keeping their own village school and Askrigg open, and closing Bainbridge.

“As a parish councillor I think we should write in very strongly about Bainbridge being a purpose-built school. It has had an awful lot of money spent on it and it is brilliant now for reception and early years, and it has very safe and secure grounds. We must put a marker down, and suggest this as a viable option for the future,” she said.

Mrs Harrison and others also questioned the financial situation the BAWB schools, federated three years ago, had found themselves in. Mrs Peacock said she found it “difficult to understand” why, before the federation of the three schools, Bainbridge had £2,000 in the bank, West Burton had in excess of £20,000 while Askrigg had a deficit of around £19,000, yet under all the options only Askrigg was the one school not suggested for closure.

Mrs Prudden said that “all that money had gone in the last three years.”

As a former finance governor of Bainbridge school, Mrs Harrison raised a number of concerns:

  • Why, knowing they were going into deficit during this financial year, did the governing body of the federation  award the executive headteacher a three-point increment in pay. “How can they justify that?” she asked.
  • The salary of the executive head was probably in the in the region of £75,000-£100,000 to run three primary schools with the help of a business manger. “There is an executive head, who does no teaching, plus a business manager, running three premises with under 100 children. I find it outrageous,” she said. The whole point of joining the three schools together was to save money on headteachers’ salaries but given the fact that the executive head did not do any teaching it meant her salary was purely a management cost.
  • Total staff costs for the three schools were were more than half a million pounds [projected for 2018/19 £556,800], representing more than 60 per cent of total costs.

 

1 Comment

  1. Eyebrow raising figures on the salaries, a business manager for less than 100 children?

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