Readers will recall how for the third time last year we helped defeat a proposal to close Cumbria's Captain Shaw's school. The Council spared no effort to win its case using open refusal to provide balanced evidence, ignoring local efforts to give relevant facts to decision-makers and deploying mis-information as well as obstructive time-delaying tactics in its cause.
The school this year faced the return of Ofsted but had been told by the County education team that there was no way it could be judged good or better and would struggle to rate satisfactory- which now means "required to improve!" That would have been an incentive for the LEA to return to the closure issue.
Governors learned from the inspector, after a thorough and detailed examination, that she had to bear in mind the fact county officers had contacted her ahead of the inspection to "inform them their concerns!" She declined to meet them before the inspection was over. She would have realised a positive finding would have to be defendable. So we congratulate Captain Shaw's staff, governors, parents and children for coming through with flying colours.
Our contact, Abigail Hardwick, has resumed as Chair of Governors and reported the very successful informal partnership with another small school nearby, Thwaite, under the one Headteacher but otherwise autonomous. This is a far happier arrangement than what the LA had tried to impose under threat of closure otherwise.
NASS is very disturbed because we have growing evidence that LA officers set on rationalisation of rural schools and the "big is better and by the way cheaper" myth should stoop to such devious ways to influence events and steer paths to closure. The school is aware from its local grapevine that Cumbria does plan to return to rural school closure schemes.
South Stoke Primary in Oxfordshire, just two classes also, had a similar experience in 2011. The Ofsted inspector saw very differently to what the LA officer had foretold although in this case the County had not sought to influence inspectors beforehand. We hope Cumbria's behaviour, like that of the East Riding in preferring to close schools than pay the lump sum decided for all schools, is not the prelude to widespread closures arriving.