THE decision to launch a process that could end with the closure of a special needs school will be examined by a panel of councillors next week.
A document signed by councillors says the shadow of uncertainty cast over Lyndale’s future has already caused some parents to send their children elsewhere, further weakening the school's position.
Earlier this month, Wirral Council’s ruling cabinet approved a call by director of children’s services Julia Hassal to begin a 12-week consultation on closing Lyndale School, citing a drop in pupil numbers and a change in funding rules.
But opposition councillors strongly believe the Eastham school should be saved and have used a “call-in” procedure to delay the cabinet's decision.
The call-in document – signed by Lib Dem councillors Tom Harney, Phil Gilchrist and Pat Williams, and Conservative councillors Jeff Green, Ian Lewis and Cherry Povall – says cabinet was not given enough information to make such a decision.
It also states the educational needs of children have not been analysed, and that uncertainty over the school’s future has already caused some parents to send their children elsewhere.
The procedure means the plan will be examined by a cross-party scrutiny committee on February 5, before being sent back to cabinet.
A resolution to make changes to the school’s top-up payments for students with high needs has also been called in, with opposition councillors claiming it will inevitably result in Lyndale’s closure.
Eastham councillor Tom Harney - who is also chairman of governors at Lyndale - told the Globe: “We are delighted to give the parents and the rest of the school community the opportunity to present the case for Lyndale School to continue.
“So far the discussion has been about money and buildings. We want to focus on the needs of children and their families.
“This is the chance to ensure the council works with parents to secure the future education and welfare of their children.”
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies expressed surprise that opposition members had called-in the decision, saying he hoped it was not simply to score political points.
He said: “All the cabinet gave authority to the officers to do was to go out to consultation with a range of options.
“So it is surprising to me that the opposition would be against consulting parents and stakeholders associated with the school on what their views are for the best future for Lyndale.
“This is exactly the course of action we have had to take with other schools where there has been falling rolls."
He added: “No decision has been made yet about the future of Lyndale, and none will be made until the 12-week consultation period is over.
“I said at the cabinet meeting we have an open mind about the future of Lyndale and we are not doing this because of any issues with the quality of education.
“Given we have not made any decision yet, it is really difficult to understand why the opposition would do this.
“I hope they’re not just doing this for political reasons to try and score some political points - because I think the issues with Lyndale are far more important than politics.”
Wirral South MP Alison McGovern is to chair a meeting on the future of Lyndale next month.
The MP said the meeting - which takes place in South Wirral High School's drama studio from 6pm on Febraury 13 - will give people the chance to have their say on the proposals to close the school.
- Find out more about the meeting here.