Ebrington Closure 4
- Article Information
- Published on Thursday, 22 September 2016 17:35
- Written by Mervyn Benford
Summary of the Findings of each Report Section.
There are no valid educational reasons to close Ebrington School. The evidence does not support the Governing Body’s assertions relating to the quality of education provided or the standards achieved by small schools. The evidence shows that the success of any school, regardless of size, is directly influenced by the drive, enthusiasm and calibre of the headteacher. [Reference Pages 12 to 25]
There are no valid reasons to close Ebrington School because of falling numbers on roll. The evidence suggests that any fall in numbers is a direct outcome of the actions of the Headteacher and Governing Body. At a time when numbers are likely to rise, reflecting planned building developments, any proposal to close the school is ill- considered. [Reference Pages 26 to 42]
Instruments of Government and Name Change
The evidence indicates that the status of St James’ School and Ebrington School was open to question and legal challenge. This is a direct result of actions taken by the Governing Body and Headteacher in recent years, which contravene mandatory statutory guidance and conflict with the Instrument of Government.
[Reference Pages 43 to 54]
Federation: Formation, Development, Legal Status
The evidence submitted to the Review Team, based on legal Counsel advice, holds that the Governing Body has disregarded the original intention of the Federation, which has been adhered to by all parties over the last 35 years, to treat the schools as separate entities. All parties have a right, based on the law of ‘legitimate expectation’, to expect that the current proposal to close Ebrington School will follow the process and criteria required in the case of a separate school.
The Governing Body’s proposal for the closure of Ebrington School does not meet the requirements relating to the statutory presumption against the closure of rural schools.
The actions taken by the Headteacher and Governing Body to change the name and status of Ebrington School and St James’ School would appear from the evidence submitted to be open to legal challenge on the grounds that the Governing Body failed to comply with the statutory mandatory guidance pertaining to such changes. [Reference Pages 55 to 69]
Maintenance and Buildings
The condition of the Ebrington School building does not justify the proposed closure. The evidence clearly shows that the deterioration of the fabric of the building is the result of the Governing Body’s failure to maintain and update the premises over recent years. Further, the evidence shows that the leadership of the school has demonstrated poor judgement and failed in its duty of care for the pupils, staff and visitors to the premises. [Reference Pages 70 to 80] 11
The proposed closure cannot be justified on financial grounds. The evidence shows that the Governing Body acknowledges this fact. The evidence further indicates that the Governing Body has shown a poor understanding of financial procedures. This, together with its withholding of financial information, has raised the concerns of a wide spectrum of Interested Parties. [Reference Pages 82 to 89]
The evidence shows that the Governing Body’s proposal, if implemented, will inevitably and significantly worsen the already heavily congested traffic around St. James’s School. The Governing Body has failed to provide a convincing plan to mitigate this potentially dangerous situation. [Reference Pages 90 to 98]
Governing Body’s Proposal and Process
The evidence shows that the Governing Body’s proposal, and the manner in which the related process has been managed, is the prime cause of the shock, distrust and anger felt by the parents, the local and wider community, the Town Council, the Parish Council and the District Councillors. It is also responsible for the current breakdown of relationships at all levels. The Governing Body’s consultation process and procedures failed to comply with the requirements of acceptable good practice. [Reference Pages 99 to 118]
The evidence shows that the Governing Body’s proposal is not feasible in relation to the major considerations. These include the education of pupils, the condition of Ebrington School building, financial grounds, lack of the necessary pre-planning advice, consent of the Trust (owners of the St James’ premises), the lack of space for development of St James’s School and the impact its implementation would have on the traffic situation. Further, the legal evidence indicates that it is not feasible to proceed whilst its previous and current actions are open to legal challenge. [Reference Pages 119 to 123]
The Future for the Schools
The evidence shows conclusively that the Governing Body’s proposal, together with the management of the process, has had a very damaging effect upon the relationship between some of the governors and the Headteacher on the one hand and the wider body of Interested Parties on the other. The evidence shows that this represents a major obstacle to the future harmonious development of the schools. It is unclear at this time how the schools will move forward.
The breakdown in relationships is well summarised by a District Councillor when she states:
The harm and lack of confidence that has been created by the Head Teacher, the Chair of Governors and the Governing Body will not be resolved for many years and generations to come, if ever.
(District Councillor, 2016)
Educational provision is the principal reason cited by the Headteacher and the Governing Body in the proposal documents for Consultation 1 (C1) and Consultation (C2) to close Ebrington School.
The key drivers for the proposal are educational
(Chair of Governors letter to Chipping Campden Town Council, February 2016)
There are three main educational reasons stated by the Governing Body and Headteacher for the closure. These are:
i. Mixed-year classes;
ii. Secondary School readiness;
iii. Facilities at Ebrington School.