Parents’ concern over Sidmouth school merger plans

CONCERNED parents have issued a rallying call to hundreds of others over controversial plans to merge three Sidmouth schools into one.

CONCERNED parents have issued a rallying call to hundreds of others over controversial plans to merge three Sidmouth schools into one.

Mums and dads with children at St Nicholas Junior, All Saints Infants and Sidmouth Infants schools feel they have been “left in the dark” over proposals revealed last week.

Some joined forces on Wednesday and demanded: “We need answers.”

Parents feel a lack of information means they can’t make an informed decision over the bid’s merits and fear the mooted school amalgamation is a “done deal.”

They slammed the “underhand” timing and format of an information session next month and felt a public consultation deadline put them “under pressure”.

The 600 families who could be affected by the change have been urged to have their say on a specially set-up internet forum.

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“We feel we have been let down badly by the information provided,” said mum-of-four Lisa Craig, who jointly chaired a meeting of around 25 parents from the schools at All Saints Church on Wednesday night. “We need information now. It may be a really good proposal, but where’s the information so we can make an informed decision.” “It’s suspicious its being done so quickly. It’s looking like a done deal,” said one mum.

“There must be other options- we have the right as a community to be involved in that process,” said another.

Proposals could become a reality at the beginning of the next school year in September.

“I don’t understand, when it involves the children of our town, we’re being rushed into it,” said one dad.

Parents feared the perceived ‘question and answer’ format of an information session with staff on February 1 will “put a lot of people off” going to the Kennaway House event. They slammed its timing, from 4pm to 6.30pm, as inconvenient for people with children.

Education chiefs have promised concerned parents more than one chance to have a say over plans to merge three Sidmouth schools into one.

Governing bodies and headteachers of St Nicholas Junior, All Saints Infants, and Sidmouth Infants schools approached education authority Devon County Council (DCC) with proposals for an amalgamation.

A public consultation was launched last week and will run until February 18.

A DCC spokesman said this week a decision will be made between itself and school governing bodies on whether to proceed with plans after the consultation ends.

He added that, if the bid is progressed, a public notice will be issued and another six-week public consultation exercise will take place from March 25 to May 6.

DCC cabinet members will then decide the fate of the merger plan on May 11.

The spokesman added the ‘twilight’ 4pm to 6.30pm scheduling of an information session with school staff at Kennaway House on February 1 was based on previous experience and was one “most parents favour.”

“It’s unusual for people to complain,” he added.

The Herald reported last week how headteachers at the three schools insisted proposals will safeguard youngsters’ education in the town for years to come.

Paul Walker, Viv Craig and Hilary Williams warned: “If this doesn’t happen, in three years, we won’t have three schools- whatever.”

“We are asking the question and seeking views. It’s definitely not a decision that’s been taken yet,” said Mr Walker.

An online parents’ forum on the subject was launched last Wednesday. Questions posted will be put to school governing bodies and education chiefs.

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