Friday, November 03, 2006

Four Southampton Schools Face Closure

pictures from school websites.

Today Ann Milton, the Lib-Dem Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Learning announced her administration's plan to close four schools in the city; Millbrook (awarded the DfES Healthy Schools Standard; only one other secondary school in the City has achieved this), Oaklands, Grove Park and Woolston. They will be replaced by 2 new schools, one on the Oaklands site in the west of the city and another on the Grove Park site in the east. All the existing teachers, admin and support staff will be made redundant and have to re-apply for their jobs at the new schools, should they wish to work there. Bellmore School and Regents Park (both in Shirley) are to become mixed and Redbridge School, Sholing Technology College and Bitterne Park School are all to expand.
There are three main causes for the need to remove the 1000 or so surplus school places in Southampton
  • declining birth rates (although no-one ever talks about the affects of migration on the future population in Southampton in any detail)

  • an exodus of families from the city as family houses are demolished or converted to flats

  • and a preference of parents who live in Southampton to send their children to schools with better educational results in the Hampshire area outside of Southampton

The worrying thing is that the timetable for closures (and indeed the consultation) has been eye-watering quick. Why? Well one has to suspect that there are three main reasons for that too;

  • the desire of the Lib-Dems to set the schools closure plans in train before May's local elections, thus forcing whoever takes control to carry on with cuts

  • to push the policy through before the schools are able to become foundation schools, acquire foundations and allow foundations to appoint a majority of governors which would effectively stop the closure programme in its tracks when the new Education Bill becomes law

  • the continuation of the Lib-Dems to drive forward the Senior Officers of the Council in making education policy, such as Clive Webster, the Executive Director for Children's Services and Learning proposals to create so-called "Learning Campuses" providing education from children to adults on a single site
Legally the official decision can't be made until the end of November but don't expect the Lib-Dems to yield unless the political pressure upon them becomes unbearable. Co-incidentally today the Lib-Dems launched a national campaign to save small playing fields- expect those in Southampton on the sites earmarked for closure to be exempt from this. They will be keen to sell the sites for re-development.


Blogger Stan Bull said...

And NuLabour constantly claim that the country "has never had it so good" with record levels of investment in education and health....

7:19 pm  
Blogger Ryan Newell said...

I am surprised that Cllr Ann Milton has not resigned after the mess she has made of this review.
Southampton council members voted in favour of her resigning but she remains in her post.
Surely if she can not do the decent thing and resign then the leader of the council(if you can call him that) cllr Vinson should remove her himself.

9:16 am  
Blogger Jeremy Moulton said...

Matt. Tackling the problem of surplus secondary school places in Southampton was never going to be easy. However I think the process was really mishandled by the Lib Dems. They set out with a clear objective in mind, namely to shut one school on the west of the city and one school on the east. They knew from the start which schools they wanted to close - Millbrook and Woolston. The months and months of consultation were really just smoke and mirrors.
I think the whole process showed a huge lack of imagination. The review operated in a complete vaccum and issues such as new trust schools and the recent influx of immigrants were conveniently ignored.

Furthermore this is not a matter that all Councillors will get a vote on. The decision will be taken by the Lib Dem Executive and will then be taken to the Schools Reorganisation Committee. Opposition Councillors like myself will not get a vote. It is a good example of how undemocratic the current structure of local government is. Jeremy

10:49 pm  

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