Read the text of the letter in full below:
I am writing to seek answers on several urgent issues raised by me by parents, children, staff and governors of Queensway Primary School regarding the recent consultation for closure of the school.
The school and the community at large have expressed deep distress at the timing of the announcement, with the school getting less than 24 hours notice and no time to prepare parents and in particular vulnerable families for whom such an announcement would be traumatic. The community at large have had no time or opportunity to engage with the problems around low school intake and there seems to have been little in the way of bringing partners together to address this growing concern. Can you outline what efforts were made to deal with the issues outlined as reason for closure over the previous three years and what responses were given when the school approached your department for support?
As you know, Queensway lies within a 2nd percentile LSOA, with the highest rate of pupil premium in the area. Covid-19 and a poor performing former leadership has meant that some of the most vulnerable children in Aireborough have suffered years of turbulence and disruption. This is a material concern subject to legislation on school reorganisations. In Schedule 2 of The School Organisation (Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools) Regulations 2013 it states, ‘a statement and supporting evidence about the impact on the community of the closure of the school and any measures proposed to mitigate any adverse impact.’ Has this impact been undertaken as per the legislation and where has it been published?
I have not been made aware of a report being made available into the deeper reasons behind the falling numbers and the only data point is this year’s reception number. The rationale on school numbers for the consultation on the school is an area wide issue. Can the council supply a map showing 0-4 year old numbers for Aireborough?
The council could have approached the issue of lower birthrates in Aireborough through a number of alternative approaches. What alternatives were considered? The council has power over school PANs, did the Council consider an alternative PAN arrangement for the schools across the cluster? Did the council consider an area led solution? If this was considered, can this now be published?
In Schedule 2 of The School Organisation (Establishment and Discontinuance of Schools) Regulations 2013 it also states, ‘A statement and supporting evidence about the need for school places in the area including whether there is sufficient capacity to accommodate displaced pupils.’ Can I have a copy of the statement and supporting evidence (which was not available at the consultation meeting as outlined below)? Due to longer round trips and disruption of existing routines, there is likely to be an attendance drop off and there are concerns regarding wrap around care. The regulations also state ‘the provision that is to be made for those pupils who receive educational provision recognised by the local authority as reserved for children with special educational needs’ can you outline this provision?
The prospect of a large round trip for vulnerable families also is referenced in the regulations. Schedule 2 of the regulations also states ‘details of length and journeys to alternative provision must be provided.’ Can you provide me with these?
If the site is to be closed it must be retained for education for at least eight years. What are the options that the council has considered for the educational future for the site if it’s no longer Queensway School and when will this be published? For those children who are going to be sent to schools elsewhere, how are you going to guarantee siblings will not be separated? What support will be given to vulnerable children and how much choice will parents have?
I attended the consultation on Wednesday the 6th October. The view of parents and community members that I spoke to as well as my personal view is that the level of detail provided in the consultation was insufficient. There was some data about Queensway but little to no information about other schools. The decision to make both events on a Wednesday night does not allow for the widest consultation possible. Will data about other schools and the wider Aireborough catchment be available and will a session on a different day be organised so as to not disadvantage parents who work on a Wednesday?
Alex Sobel MP