Barry’s Oak Field Primary School safe as threat withdrawn
8:23am Friday 1st March 2013 in News
CAMPAIGNERS battling to save Barry’s Oak Field Primary School from proposed closure have reacted cautiously to Vale council’s assurances the school will now stay open.
School supporters are urging Vale residents to attend a planned demonstration at the civic offices on Monday instigated by one of the other schools originally also earmarked for closure – Llancarfan.
Llanfair, the third school named as under threat by the Barry and District News, is believed to be safe after the discovery of a covenant preventing uses not associated with education.
Chairman of Llancarfan governors, Gill Davies received an e-mail on Tuesday saying the school was also safe. Campaigners are urging people to continue liking their Facebook pages, signing petitions and writing letters to safeguard all the schools’ futures and call for investment in their pupils and facilities.
A Vale council spokeswoman said the cabinet had been considering a scrutiny report that made a number of recommendations for reorganisation of schools in the county.
She said council leader, Cllr Neil Moore, and the cabinet member for children’s services Chris El-more, had both expressed concern about suggestions to close Llanfair and Llancarfan Primary Schools and after further consideration by the cabinet. The report’s proposals to close Oak Field had also met with opposition.
Cllr Moore said: “The report will go before cabinet on March 4. We have now had a chance to consider the report fully and not only are we unhappy with the idea of closing Llanfair and Llan-carfan, two high-achieving schools, but we are not happy with the recommendation to close Oak Field. “The school belongs to the Gibbonsdown community. We believe that more work needs to be done to help the school improve and we will not be supporting the closure.”
Angry parents were shocked by the apparent U-turn – made hours after one of the school’s longest-serving governors, Vale Gib-bonsdown councillor and cabinet member, Cllr Rob Curtis had stated he had supported local children for many years. “But I cannot ignore that we are in a very difficult situation with many local parents choosing to no longer support the school by sending their children elsewhere. “The ugly truth that none of us can ignore is that currently Oak Field School is only 43 per cent full and is forecast to reduce to 36 per cent by 2017. Clearly this extremely high rate of surplus places is unsustainable!
“But I can assure you that as a Gibbonsdown ward resident and councillor I will continue to fight for the best educational interests of thechildren of the Gibbonsdown ward.”
A subsequent e-mail, arriving at the Barry and District News’ and campaigner Rhian Samuel’s e-mail accounts, from Cllr Curtis’ e-mail address, said: “I am pleased to inform you that a report will be presented to cabinet on March 4 making it clear that we oppose the closure. “The report will also confirm that we intend looking at various ways in which the school can develop. I am sorry that you and your family, particularly the children concerned, have been subjected to the anguish and disruption. “Please be assured that we will not be closing your school.”
Oak Field chairwoman of governors Linda Ware said: “I am absolutely delighted at this apparent change of mind. “However I understand that this matter still needs to be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on March 4 so the fight is not yet over.” One of the leading campaigners, Rhian Samuel said she was confident the action group could rebuff any reasons councillors submitted for closure and make reasoned arguments for the school’s l Continues from page 1 preservation and improvements. She said: “Our children need help and support.
“The school is doing brilliantly and we are hoping it will be taken out of special measures.
“That e-mail showed a blatant disregard for the community”
Chairwoman of the Gibbonsdown residents board Molly Conway said she felt the local authority had let the residents down.
“She said: “This school has been going downhill for years. “I am blaming the education authority. It’s time to shape up.”
Vale AM, Jane Hutt said: “Having met with Oak Field parents to discuss their strong support for Oak Field School, in the Gibbonsdown community, I am delighted that the response from the leader of the council and the cabinet member for education, is that the school should not close. “I back this view and pledge my support to the parents, governors and staff, to ensure that Oak Field School pupils get the best education that the Vale of Glamorgan can offer.”
School supporters plan to protest at the Vale offices, Holton Road, Barry, from midday on Monday, ahead of the 2pm cabinet meeting which is open to the public.
To also support the schools people can join the school’s Facebook pages. Save Oak Field School currently has more than 2,000 members.