Outcome of Proposal for the Closure of Cole Street Primary School
Decision Maker: Cabinet
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
The interim Director of Children’s Services reminded Members that, at its meeting on 24 June 2010 (Minute No. 24 refers), the Cabinet had decided that following consultation with governing bodies, staff, parents and other stakeholders, and additional investigations into the possibility of sites for a new school, statutory notices should be published regarding the closure of Cole Street Primary School. These notices were published on 8 September 2010.
Members considered a report that detailed the background, including the outcome of the consultation process that was reported to the Cabinet at its meeting on 1 October 2009 (Minute No. 141refers), the outcome of the statutory representation period (which ended on 20 October 2010) and commentary on the points raised.
Barbara Egan, Chair of the Governing Body of Cole Street Primary School, made representations to the Cabinet, including a plea on behalf of the whole Cole Street Primary Community and expressed sadness that the school seemed likely to close after eighty years. She was disappointed that Cole Street, which was technically bigger than Cathcart Street Primary School, was earmarked for closure and over a perceived lack of support and information-sharing.
Rosemary Bishop, Headteacher of Cathcart Street Primary School, also addressed the Cabinet, also informing of her sadness that Cole Street Primary School was earmarked for closure. She noted that the decision did not involve quality issues but was the result of falling school rolls which meant one fewer school was needed in that particular area of Birkenhead. Mrs Bishop told the Cabinet that, once formal procedures were completed, Cathcart Street Primary would work with Cole Street Primary and involve parents in the process to ensure a smooth transition of children into her school community. She noted that change could be unsettling but could also be positive, providing challenges and opportunities.
Cabinet Members were aware that the decision was both difficult and emotional. They had tried to act fairly and had ensured that the consultation over the school’s closure had been carried out properly.
The Interim Director of Children’s Services told the Cabinet that he and his staff were very sad that such a decision had to be made. Unfortunately, one fewer school was needed in the area and the Cathcart Street site was the better site for future primary school provision.
In respect of the concerns raised over perceived lack of clarity of information, the Interim Director reported that a full and proper consultation process had been followed. However, there had at that time also been a proposal to build a new school in Birkenhead Park; and Children’s Services had not wanted to raise any false hopes in relation to this. He accepted that this approach could have been construed as not providing enough information. He reflected that there had been a silent period for the schools, but he was keen to learn from this and would not make the same mistake again.
Councillor Andrew Hodson informed that he had visited Cole Street Primary School during the previous year, when he was Mayor. The closure was certainly no reflection on the school but unfortunately was the result of dwindling numbers and the most practical solution was to keep Cathcart Street School open.
Councillor Sheila Clarke placed on record her thanks to the Headteacher and Governors at Cole Street Primary School for their hard work and commitment which had resulted in very high standards at the school. She informed that combining the two schools would strengthen and build on the high standards already achieved in both schools. She was confident that both schools would work together for the benefit of their pupils and the wider community.
That the proposal for the closure of Cole Street Primary School be approved, and that the Interim Director of Children’s Services be authorised to take all necessary steps to ensure the prescribed procedures are followed, including proposals for the re-zoning of schools, in furtherance of the proposal, with closure of the school on 31 August 2011.
Report author: Howard Cooper
Publication date: 30/11/2010
Date of decision: 25/11/2010
Decided at meeting: 25/11/2010 - Cabinet