Monday, 13 December 2010

Culverhay decision Call In

We are leading a call-in of the executive decision on Culverhay. CALL IN OF EXECUTIVE DECISION NUMBER E2181   We the undersigned wish to support the call in of the decision E2181 ‘A Review of Secondary Schools in Bath – Consultation on the proposal to close Culverhay School’ taken by the Cabinet on 25th November 2010.

The grounds for the call in are as follows:   Procedure:   The consultation process on the proposal to close Culverhay School was flawed as it was based on a consultation which was in itself flawed.
The flaws in the original consultation, on the review of secondary schools in Bath, were stated in the call in of paper E2097: “The consultation was based on the scenario of closing three schools and reopening two – one in the north and one in the south of the city.

This scenario was approved by the majority of respondents (66%). By abandoning this scenario and recommending the closure of one school in the south, the Cabinet has disenfranchised residents who, believing that the outcome of the consultation would be a new, coeducational school at Culverhay (which is what the community has wanted for a long time), did not respond to the original consultation in large numbers.”

The first question in the consultation booklet on the proposal to close Culverhay School was highly leading and did not give consultees the option to state their agreement or otherwise with individual elements of the Council’s overall approach to Bath secondary education.

The responses to the consultation on the proposal to close Culverhay School do not reflect a complete picture of the wishes of the community given that it appears that not all of the online consultation responses have been counted in the analysis.

It appears that replies from the same postcode or URL were treated as just one response, which gives an inaccurate picture of the strength of community support for Culverhay. There has been no opportunity for the Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Panel to consider the two alternative proposals put forward by Culverhay School and the Friends of Culverhay.

The Cabinet has not given proper consideration to the potential benefits of the federation proposed by Culverhay with Cabot Learning Foundation (Federation) in Bristol, which is headed by a school with a long-standing, proven track record of leading successful transformation of standards in schools across the region. Pupil numbers and financial viability: The small size of Culverhay School is included as part of the rationale for closure. However the Cabinet has not given proper consideration to the community’s wish for Culverhay to become a coeducational school.

The survey by the Friends of Culverhay demonstrates that a high number of parents with children at local primary schools would send their children to a coeducational Culverhay School. Insufficient consideration has been given to population growth.

The number of children attending Bath primary schools is already increasing and 6,000 new homes are planned for Bath, many in the South of the city; this will increase the number of children in the education system. The Cabinet has not taken into account the likely redistribution of surplus places were Culverhay to become more attractive to parents as a coeducational school.

The Cabinet has not taken into account the government commitment to raise the participation age to 17 in 2013 and to 18 by 2015 which may increase the number of sixth form entrants. (LINK) The Cabinet has not recognised that if Culverhay were to become a coeducational establishment, and as such it would be more attractive to parents, it would cease to be a small school and so would cease to receive the small schools grant of £530,000, reducing the cost of educating each pupil.

The Cabinet has not given proper consideration to forthcoming changes in school funding through the ‘Pupil Premium’. From 2011 pupils who are eligible for free school meals (about 40% of pupils at Culverhay) will attract additional funding likely to be in the region of £1500-£2000 per pupil.
Transport: Insufficient consideration has been given to the increased costs of transport for children from the South West of Bath travelling to schools in other parts of the city as opposed to walking or cycling to Culverhay.

There will be increased costs to parents – mainly through bus fares as there is a lack of access to private transport in the community – or to the Council through statutory transport to school. The Cabinet has stated that the community is relatively close to alternative schools, but only the distance as the crow flies has been taken into account and not the actual distance by road, which is significantly farther.

The impact on the pupils of the extra time taken to get to and from schools has not been sufficiently considered. Cabinet meeting (25.11.10): The education community in Bath has not been listened to. Insufficient consideration has been given to support by the Bath Primary Heads Group (representing 27 primary school head teachers) for alternative option 2. The Cabinet has used speculation about the motives of parents who choose to send their children to Culverhay as a part of the evidence leading to this decision.

The Cabinet said that an all through school (age 2 to 18) was not feasible because it would have to be all on the same site. However this is not the case as all through schools elsewhere are split between different sites (for example Swindon Academy).