Swanmead Governors “saddened”
This morning we reported that Somerset County Council had backed a school reorganisation in Ilminster. This will result in Greenfylde and Swanmead schools in Ilminster being effectively merged. They will initially be a two site primary school. However there is an intent to move to a new build school as and when a site can be found.
Since the decision, we have received this statement from the Governors of Swanmead School:
Saddened but unsurprised
Swanmead School Governors are saddened but unsurprised to learn of today’s County Council decision to destroy Ilminster’s thriving, popular & successful Middle School. It seems to us that, since the topic was first broached several years ago, the driving force is some ideological or political desire to end the 3-tier system. All schools in the Crewkerne Ilminster area are ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ & it is not hard to find 2-tier schools in other parts of Somerset which cannot say the same!
There are in fact very successful schools in both systems & arguments for & against – but no sound educational case can be made for tearing apart a system which works well. Whatever motive the Council has for this wholesale remodelling, it is very hard to believe it is primarily driven by concern for the education & wellbeing of Ilminster’s children
We have been told that the area secondary schools‘ finances are unsustainable under the current structure. Of course we understand that all County Councils are strapped for cash nowadays & that rural schools are underfunded. But we dispute the Local Authority claim that all other avenues have been explored. During their so-called consultation with schools over the past 3 years &, more recently with the general public, other viable forms of restructure have been proposed &, it is strongly rumoured, at least one, very sound, alternative, financial offer has been made. All alternatives seem to have been quickly brushed aside.
The appearance of consultation has been kept up & bureaucratic boxes have been ticked. But, rightly or wrongly, to us, it just all feels like window-dressing. Despite claiming concern about the area’s secondary school financial deficit, the Council cheerfully expended vast sums of public money on a judicial review in 2019 to squash Swanmead’s attempt to join an academy trust group – a ruling which ignored the wishes of Ilminster parents, staff & governors & snubbed the Department of Education & the Regional Schools‘ Commissioner.
Amusingly, the LA are now appealing to that very same Department to support their interpretation of how Swanmead & Greenfylde Schools should amalgamate. Will that too end up, expensively, in the courts? Misterton are also, we understand, in the throes of starting a possible legal review of their school’s closure – more expense.
Apart from spending public money on a court case to ensure it could get rid of Swanmead School, the Council has only provided financial modelling for the costs of this restructure over the next 2 years & vague estimates for the following years, ranging from modest to eye-wateringly high. In other words, they do not appear to know what it may cost. They are doing an excellent job, not just of appearing to gamble with children’s futures but with public money too.
In the meantime, as always, Swanmead teachers will continue to do the best possible work in the interests of the children of Ilminster