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School Closure

(19 Posts)
SueDonim Tue 11-Dec-01 16:56:24

We heard today that there are plans to close our wonderful village school. The plans go before the council on Thursday but the parents only learnt of the issue today from the local papers!! Does anyone have experience of campaigning to keep a school open; what's good to do and what's not good?

debster Wed 12-Dec-01 09:30:27

I'm sorry I haven't any experience of this but I just wanted to say how crap I think the way you have found out about the closure is. Hopefully you will get a good few months before a decision is actually taken for you to make your objections known. I suggest getting as many parents as possible to sign a petition, stir up as much interest as possible with the local paper giving your side of the story, canvassing your local M.P. etc etc. I'm sure you will have thought of all these options. Sorry for not being much help. Good luck!

TigerMoth1 Wed 12-Dec-01 10:28:56

Suedonim, you must be gutted. I have no experience of this either, but I think the first thing I would do is get some facts together.

The local newspaper might be presenting the worst case scenario to grab their readers' attention. Can you find out where they got their story from? Perhaps phone them up? Also phone the local education department, and, of course, the school itself. I would say you need to get information from a number of different sources to get the full picture. You need to know as much as possible in order to target your campaign.

I sincerely hope your school will be open with parents about the situation, keep them in the know, and be ready to answer their questions. Perhaps your campaign could tackle this first?

Good luck!

wendym Wed 12-Dec-01 11:50:21

Hi - haven't got experience of this sort of issue but can give you some advice about campaigning generally. First you want to attend that council meeting if you can - both to make sure you know the facts and to make it clear there will be opposition. Then you want everyone who is worried about the closure to write to the local MP. MPs get quite a lot of letters but if their postbag suddenly contains 50 or so on one subject it really will make a difference. Don't just write yourselves - get friends, neighbours, colleagues, relatives to write too. Parents should both write separate letters. it's better if these are personalised letters ( I am worried that my grandson XXXX will have to travel further to school etc) but if you do some stock letters you'll get more people to write.

Next get your local newspaper on your side - they like personal stories and photos.

Find out who your local councillors are and write/phone/visit them.

what are the argumenet for closure and why do you want it to stay open? what's government policy on closures and how does it fit? I'll try and find a website for the policy bit and come back.

wendym Wed 12-Dec-01 12:14:37

The site for governement policy is

Am I right in thinking you're in Scotland? If so you may want to check out That had a reference to the Education Minister saying there would be no closures on financial grounds alone. Opposition parties are often a good source of advice anyway if the local MP isn't helpful.

sml Wed 12-Dec-01 13:16:09

An ex civil servant wrote a brilliant book about five years ago on how to organise protests against officialdom, there might be something relevant in it. Can't remember the title though - does anyone else know the book I mean?

SueDonim Wed 12-Dec-01 14:36:18

Thank you all so much for your input - I'm sitting here with tears running down my face at your kindness. I've been in touch with our MP and MSP (both of whom I know slightly through NCT and same-age children) and have spoken to the council today (to some bl**dy man who thought it was a suitable subject to make jokes about, grrrr.) I'm taking all your ideas on board and will let you know how things progress. Thanks again.

wendym Wed 12-Dec-01 15:57:06

OK I admit it - I'm an ex civil servant (not Dept Education), so I know about complaints from being on the receiving end. Didn't write the book, though. There is a book called Holding Your Ground which is about environmental complaints. May have some relevant things in it. Need soem more information to be much help though - like why they want to close it, how many children/families you have, are any special needs (more newsworthy, I'm afraid). May also be worth talking to local CAB.

SueDonim Wed 12-Dec-01 17:19:38

Hi, Wendym. There has been a review of schools, locally and the plan is to close 8 Victorian village schools and centralise into several larger schools in the towns. On past experience in other areas, it means ripping the heart out of the rural villages, as once the school goes, the rest of the infrastructure soon follows.

Our school has 19 familes, with 32 children and if the closure goes ahead, our children will be forced to attend a 410 pupil school five miles away. The town needs a new school, to accomodate children from new-build housing but it's viability isn't dependent on our school closing. The council's reasoning is that the facilites are inadequate in the village school, which seems a bit odd as they've spent the past 10 years telling the headteacher there's nothing worng with the buildings and nothing needs to be spent on them!!

The real reason, I suspect, is nothing to do with offering our children a better education - the service provided here is second to none that I've come across in 20 years of educating my family - but all to do with reducing the costs of educating village children and to make money from the sale of the buildings.

wendym Thu 13-Dec-01 13:09:33

Ok with that number of families/children you'll need all the help you can get. You need to get in touch with people in the other villages affected (ask schools if they'll distribute a letter to parents for you, maybe, contact their PTAs or go to school gates and hand out contact details. You can probably get contact details for PTAs from NCPTA if you need them or maybe the Charity Commisssion website. How supportive are your MP/MSPs being? Think carefully - politicians are good at sounding as though they are being helpful while promising nothing. Even if you know them well still write to them as they can pass letters on to other people and can't do that with a chat.

By the way is this a real attempt at closure or a way to avoid the village schools seeking better facilities? You need to deal with the argument about facilities, though. What was the Offstead report like? Your best argument is likely to be one based on the overall quality of education and whether that can be replicated in the plans. They need to be able to show they can deliver something better. There are ways round facilities problems - my local village school buses children to a nearby village to use a swimming pool/ gym for example. I.T. should expand the range of teaching options for/ resources aavailable to small schools.

Mps want to be re-elected. Any issue that concerns a large number of people concerns them. So get everyone involved. House prices fall in village without schools which may help to persuade those without children to get involved.

You also need to make a big fuss over lack of consultation. I don't know much about the recent human rights legislation but maybe the right to family life bit could be relevant. Any children at the school have lawyers among their relatives?

Any equivalents to Council For Protection of Rural England? Seek out any groups (like that /WIs?) that might support the "take life out of the community" argument. You main enemy is the belief that there are too few of you to make a difference - not so if you are dedicated.

SueDonim Thu 13-Dec-01 14:56:33

Wendym, this is fantastic stuff, I'm very grateful. You've given me so much food for thought and strategies and at least I feel a bit more empowered. There has now been a verbal statement that schools will not close if communities don't want that, so there's a glimmer of hope. I'm hoping the MSP will cooperate when I see him on Monday, as he supports 'Rural Life' (although I suspect that actually means fox hunting!!) and I'm attending the Community Council meeting tonight, to gauge feeling there, too. Thanks again for your help.

SueDonim Tue 15-Jan-02 00:22:28

I'm back to pick your brains again, folks! Quite a lot has happened since I last posted. We've had a well attended public meeting, where the unanimous(sp?) feeling was that the community wants the school to stay open. We have had lots of excellent ideas and I feel quite optimistic that we can stall this plan to close our school.

We are now preparing to meet the Director of Education and I've been delegated the task of finding data on the educational value of rural schools. We have research from the 1970's but have been unable to find anything later than that. Does anyone know of any later research that shows rural schools in a good light?

We'd also like to get hold of a booklet called "How to Save Your School" which was published at the height of school closures in England.

TIA, Sue

Ailsa Tue 15-Jan-02 01:27:38

SueDonim, Found this on BBC Website

Monday, June 7, 1999 Published at 09:18 GMT 10:18 UK


New fears for Scottish rural schools

BBC Scotland education correspondent Kenneth Macdonald reports.
A new body is being set up to support Scotland's small rural schools.

The move has come from the Scottish School Boards Association, which says local councils are preparing a fresh round of closures.

Meanwhile, a government initiative to save rural schools from the axe has failed to win a single reprieve in more than a year since it was launched.

Rising concern over rural school closures prompted the then Education Minister Brian Wilson to make the so-called "Dunoon declaration" 15 months ago.

Under its terms no rural school would be allowed to shut because of cost alone - the educational advantages of closing it would have to outweigh the adverse effect on the community.

Final decision

The government promised its new standard would be applied to rural closures which were subject to a final decision by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Since then, however, just one school has come before the secretary of state, the 11-pupil Portnahaven Primary on Islay.

Parents and pupils there have been waiting nearly six months for a decision.

If that does not arrive by the end of the month, the task will pass to the new Scottish administration, which assumes full powers in July.

The Scottish Office says the matter is still under consideration and a decision will be made in due course.

did a google search on rural education in scotland and came up with some sites for you to try, not sure how much help they'll be.

wendym Tue 15-Jan-02 10:18:22

Don't know what this says but you may want to look at An examination of HMI reports on rural schools by Andrew Tait Look on Seems to be a site supporting rural schools so probably favourable but if not you need to be able to counter the arguments anyway.

SueDonim Tue 15-Jan-02 10:53:30

Thank you, thank you, thank you! There's lots to work on here - I can see the kids are going to have to look after themselves today as I shall be busy on the computer!

Batters Fri 01-Feb-02 15:45:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SueDonim Sun 24-Nov-02 08:31:19

I thought I'd revive this thread to let you know that WE WON and the village schools won't be closed!!!! Read all about a stunning success for democracy here.

Power to the people!

Enid Sun 24-Nov-02 09:34:31

Well done SueDonim - congrats

WideWebWitch Sun 24-Nov-02 11:46:00

Fantastic suedonim

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