Schools Row – Swanmead Governors statement

This morning The Leveller received the following statement from the Governors of Swanmead School. It relates to the proposed reorganisation of schools in the Ilminster/Crewkerne area. In this case the merger of Greenylde and Swanmead Schools in Ilminster to form one large primary school. The statement, which we believe is self explanatory, suggests the school has been misled. They also suggest that parents were not given the full facts in the consultation last year.

Statement from the School Governors at Swanmead Community School

“New” School in Ilminster?

Under restructure proposals, the Local Authority stated both Ilminster schools will close & amalgamate into a new CofE Primary school with a new name. Consultations & reactions so far have been based on this assumption.

The LA (ie Somerset County Council) suggested Swanmead & Greenfylde form a small joint governing body & appoint a future Headteacher asap – to step into the job in Sept. 2022 but get involved in planning next year.

Swanmead governors think the restructure will interrupt & damage the education & wellbeing of the pupils of the two schools. But if the plans are approved, they agree with the LA that the wisest, most locally democratic way to contribute to the new school & reduce the harmful effects of these big changes, is for some governors from each school to share equally in choosing a Headteacher & supporting plans for the new school.  We want our parents to have confidence that these decisions are made constructively & cooperatively in the best interests of the pupils.

However, the Diocese & Greenfylde Chair of Governors have recently suggested to us the true situation is not at all as we were led to believe.  In practice, only Swanmead will close Greenfylde will actually remain – maybe under a new name BUT it keeps its identifying School No. under LA plans & so avoids the legal requirement for new schools to become academies.  So the “new” school will legally still be Greenfylde.  It simply expands by taking Years 5 & 6 from Swanmead & using all or some of Swanmead premises. 

If this is correct, the LA has either misled us or not done its homework.  Ilminster will not have a “new” Primary School. Swanmead will just be rubbed out & its Headteacher made redundant. 

*       We raised this on 9 Feb & asked the LA to clarify what will happen.  They finally confirmed on 8 Mar that the so-called “new“ school“ will have Greenfylde’s School No. but our remaining queries are “with their legal advisers” & unanswered.

*       They have not got in touch to say whether there will be, as previously proclaimed, a genuine amalgamation of the schools + a local vision for a fresh new school – or not.

*       But when we sift through everything the LA has now finally published online, we find this Government advice:                                                                           
   “The LA …. can publish a proposal to close one school ….    and enlarge/change the age range/transfer site….of an
   existing school, to accommodate the displaced pupils.  The remaining school would retain its original school
   school number, as it is not a new school even if its phase has changed.”

1.  The implications of this were not made clear to all those who contributed to the pre-Christmas & Statutory Consultations.
2.  The LA have said, more than once, that both Headteachers can apply to lead the “new” school.
3.   What confidence can we have that the LA has not missed out other important details from the published restructure plan?
      We are shocked, angry & very sad to learn, so late in the day, that the LA has created a situation where our excellent Headteacher & staff, with their many years of Key Stage 2 experience & of delivering a broad curriculum, may have little or no part to play in creating Ilminster’s so-called “new” school.

Marian Gamper, (Chair of Swanmead School Governors)

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