Rose Collinson, the Council’s education director, assured the Cabinet on 17 September, that one of those school organisation principles was that:
“The number of transition points will be reduced wherever possible within the phases of primary and secondary education. In the primary phase this means creating schools for pupils aged 3-11 and removing transitions for pupils midway through the foundation stage and between separate provisions for Key Stages 1 and 2”.
She then used that principle as a basis for advising Cabinet that St. Peter’s and St. John’s schools should close as they are small infant schools that cannot provide education from 3-11 (ignoring the rather more important points that they achieve significantly better than average results and only had a surplus places issue in respect of a single year’s intake).
On Thursday at an Overview and Scrutiny meeting my sustained questioning led Rose Collinson to admit that she had misled Cabinet with that statement. What she claimed was a school organisation principle was not.
The relevant school organisation principle supports only amalgamation of infant and junior schools, not closure of infant schools, or closure of schools that cannot offer nursery education.
Rather than using the school organisation principles to make recommendations to Cabinet on closures, as required by the policy framework, officers relied on something from a different document and told Cabinet that it was one of the school organisation principles when this was not true.
I asked the Council’s head legal officer to flag the problem to Cabinet before they decided on closures. She refused to do so.
Overview and Scrutiny have therefore sent the closure of St. John’s back to Cabinet to reconsider as the decision was not taken, as required, on the basis of the school organisation principles.