PARENTS of a Wirral special needs school facing closure say the open and transparent consultation they were promised has been “taken away” from them after the council’s head of children’s services published a “misleading” 24-page document.
The 12-week consultation on the future of the Lyndale School began on Wednesday but parents of the school – which caters for some of Wirral’s most vulnerable children – have described it as “misleading”, focusing more on money than the needs of the children.
“We have sat and read the consultation document – it’s all about funding and capital,” explained parent governor Emma Leadbetter, whose nine-year-old daughter attends Lyndale.
“We think it’s quite misleading.”
Parents met with Wirral’s director of children’s services, Julia Hassall, last month to discuss what would be involved in the consultation.
Mrs Leadbetter added: “The openness and transparency we were promised has been taken away from the parents by what she has published.”
The authority announced it was “minded” to shut down the Eastham school in December, citing a drop in pupil numbers and a change in funding as the reason.
Since then, parents have battled to change the minds of education chiefs, with more than 6,580 people signing a petition to save the school.
A decision to consult on the closure was upheld by the council’s co-ordinating committee in February after opposition councillors “called-in” the ruling cabinet’s decision.
A number of consultation meetings will take place before it closes on Wednesday, June 25 but Mrs Leadbetter said the meetings have been organised too soon and the whole process is moving “too quick”.
Concerns have also been raised over the figures used in the document and how Lyndale is compared to other schools in the borough.
Mrs Leadbetter explained: “When they talk about small schools it is all negative and when they talk about large schools, it’s all positive – but having a small school is what Lyndale children need.
“The document goes on about attendance but a lot of our children are in hospital and are off ill. “The behaviour and safety of the pupils at Lyndale is outstanding but the document has made us look like we are a rubbish school.
“Nothing in the document is talking about the needs of the children – it is just all about money and if the school closes – they have already got that in mind.”
Parents say they also feel some options which were originally being considered have been “disregarded” without full exploration, including the creation of a two to 19 school, which they have been campaigning for since 2010.
Addressing the concerns, Julia Hassall said: “Making sure that the children at the Lyndale School continue to receive high quality education, care and long term stability, is the centre of our concern.
“The option for closure is being considered because the viability of the school is compromised by its small size and falling roll, which both contribute to a difficult and potentially worsening financial position.
“The consultation will be open and transparent.”
She said a total of seven meetings would be held, offering people as many opportunities as possible to attend.
Responding to claims that she had still not answered questions parents had asked, Ms Hassall said: “The consultation document is intended to support full discussion of the issues facing the school and all options for consideration.
“Any questions handed to me at my recent meeting with parent governors will be responded to and, along with previous questions and statements, will form part of the consultation process.”
The consultation will close on Wednesday, June 25.
You can view and take part in the consultation by clicking here.
Feedback can be sent by post to The Lyndale School Consultation, Children and Young People’s Department, Hamilton Building, Conway Street, Birkenhead, CH41 1FD, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
When do the consultation meetings take place?
What has happened since the closure threat was first announced in December?
December 12: Wirral Council announced it was “minded” to close the school.
December 16: A petition to save the school reaches 3,000 signatures (it now has 6,443).
December 20: Parents ask the council for more time before a report is submitted to cabinet.
January 16: Wirral’s ruling cabinet agrees to consult on the closure of Lyndale.
January 21: Tory lead describes closing Lyndale as an "act of educational vandalism".
January 29: Opposition councillors “call-in” the decision and ask for it to be reviewed.
February 4: Call-in meeting cancelled after bureaucratic bungling means council is in breach of its own constitution.
February 11: Education Secretary Michael Gove pledges his support for the school.
February 14: Wirral South MP Alison McGovern chairs a public meeting over Lyndale’s future.
February 27: Co-ordinating committee uphold cabinet’s decision in rearranged call-in meeting.
April 2: Wirral Council launches 12-week consultation.