Open letter re schools in Ilminster and Crewkerne

The row about the future of schools in Ilminster/Crewkerne rumbles on. Campaigner Holly Phillips has now written an open letter to Wadham’s headteacher and governors. The text of the letter is self explanatory. We have published it in full so readers can get a handle on the issues. It is as follows:

I write to you concerning Somerset County Council’s proposed plans to restructure the Ilminster and Crewkerne district school system.

Firstly I would like to start by quoting the education secretary, who recently stated that the government wants to see ‘far more schools’ in multi-academy trusts by 2025, and is ‘actively looking at how we can make that happen’.

SCC have made clear that yourselves at Wadham have had numerous discussions with various Multi Academy Trusts over the years and that these talks haven’t progressed, therefore because of this, SCC state that an academy solution is not an available alternative to their highly controversial and contested plans.

I understand you have previously explored this option, but much has changed in the past few months. Two public consultations have clearly demonstrated the huge amount of opposition there is to SCC’s proposed plans and highlighted a myriad of concerns to explain why. Many believe a MAT solution would be a better and far less disruptive solution, so I ask and make a plea to you, please re-explore talks in one last ditch effort to provide the local community with a less disruptive solution.

SCC’s proposed plans will see Maiden Beech and Swanmead (two schools that are highly regarded in their communities) cease to exist in their current form and many other schools will be impacted by changes as will pupils, school staff, parents and local communities. By the SCC seeking to address the financial issues at Wadham as a result of low pupil numbers; they will be reducing pupil numbers at other schools and opening up the potential for financial implications at those schools instead.

A far more prudent way to address problems in our school system would be to hone in on problems and try to solve them without causing a ripple effect through the system. Many believe that if Wadham, Maiden Beech and Swanmead were to join the same academy trust, then by sharing resources, services and talent perhaps enough savings could be made to make Wadham viable. The SCC have even stated ‘in principle a single MAT (Multi Academy Trust) could potentially be part of a solution for education provision in the area’.

I would like to highlight the sentiment of the Diocesan Board of Education when they ask for agreement to the following condition when a school’s governing body makes an application to join an academy – ‘That the new academy will work in support of other schools (not only the required relationship with at least one other school) and not to the detriment of other local schools.’ I would assume they would expect the same consideration from governing bodies at all of their schools, so please work in support of other schools and not to their detriment – don’t just accept past talks have been had, but endeavour to move forward and re-establish talks in the hope that a better and less disruptive solution can be found.

Thank you for your time,

Holly Phillips

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