THE campaign to save a Wirral special needs school from a closure threat has been given fresh hope with education secretary Michael Gove saying he will do all he can to help its children and teachers.
Mr Gove pledged his support for the Lyndale School on Monday after he was questioned by Wirral South Labour MP Alison McGovern during an academies and free schools debate in the House of Commons.
Ms McGovern - who is due to chair a meeting on the future of the Eastham school on Thursday – asked the education secretary if he would be willing to help in saving the school.
“One of the options for saving it involves it becoming an academy, so if parents and I can find a way to keep the school sustainable, will the Secretary of State stand ready to help us?” asked Ms McGovern, who described Lyndale as a “very small but excellent school”.
Mr Gove – who visited several schools on the peninsula last month – said: “Absolutely - I very much enjoyed visiting the Wirral just two weeks ago and I will do anything I can to work with the honourable lady to help the children and teachers in that school.”
Wirral Council dropped a bombshell in December when it announced it was to begin closure procedures at Lyndale School after a predicted “budget shortfall” of £72,000.
Despite pleas from parents, the council’s ruling cabinet gave the go-ahead to consult on the closure of the Eastham school in January.
However, the 12-week consultation – which was expected to start this month – has been delayed after opposition councillors “called-in” the cabinet’s decision.
The “call-in” meeting had been scheduled to take place last Wednesday but had to be postponed until February 27 after a Town Hall bungle meant it was in breach of its own constitution.
Despite the uncertainty, the backing of the education secretary is sure to give parents, teachers and pupils of the school a cause for celebration.
Headteacher Pat Stewart told the Globe she was “delighted” that the school had been brought to the attention of Mr Gove.
She said: “I think it’s very good from the profile point of view for the school – it’s really great that Alison is asking the questions and an academy is an option that I know the parents want to look at.
“It is something that the governors have to look at as a whole to determine the viability but I think it is lovely and all of the staff and parents are quite delighted that we are up there and that our school is being named.”
The funding shortfall – which Wirral’s director of children’s services said could increase to £232,000 – has been linked to changes in the way funding is allocated and a reduction in the number of pupils.
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies in a recent statement said: “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.”
Eight options have been put forward for consultation – including turning the school into an academy – but councillors stressed other suggestions will be considered.
Alison McGovern will hold a public meeting in South Wirral High School’s drama studio from 6pm, this Thursday, to discuss the future of Lyndale.
Those interested in attending should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0151 645 6590 to register in advance.