School governing body asks Tipton community to support school relocation plan to Ottery
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An open letter is urging the community to support moving the Tipton St John Primary School move to Ottery to ensure its future.
The governing body of the Otter Valley Federation is urging people to support the plans ahead of the end of a consultation on November 18.
The school is looking to move from its flood-prone site to Thorne Farm in Ottery - a move that has divided the community.
Among those concerned are the Tipton St John Action Group (TSJAG) who feared proper investigations have not been carried out into how the closure would affect the village, or into the cost and benefits of keeping the school in Tipton.
In the letter the governing body asked for the community's support to ensure the sustainability of the school, which has been in the village for more than 175 years.
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The new build would be capable of taking 210 pupils with space reserved for future secondary school development.
The letter said: "The consequence for the school if the planning application is not approved is that its sustainability (as a four class school) into the future will disappear.
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"If the relocation to Thorne Farm proceeds, thereby removing the school off the floodplain and meeting pupil place demand in Ottery, the school will have a long-term future, continuing to serve the Tipton and Ottery communities.
"There is no deliverable solution for the school remaining in the village and the governors cannot ignore the risk to children and staff in their care by remaining on the current site. The reality is that there is no 'Plan B' to secure a successful future for our school on an alternative site."
The board said attempts were made to relocate the school within the village over the years with seven sites proposed but were unsuccessful due to unsuitable road networks or lack of available grant funding.
The school then came to a decision after meeting with ministers at the Department of Education who said it needed to work with Devon County Council to find a solution.
The land at Thorne Farm is owned by the county council, which is looking to build a 150-home development to fund the multi-million pound financial shortfall to relocate the school.
The letter said: "The school was founded more than 175 years ago and has grown within the Tipton community with strong links to the local church and with continuing support from parents, PTFA and volunteers.
"Leaving the village has never been the desire of the governors, but there are no solutions to relocate or rebuild in the village and we cannot remain passive to the risk from flooding.
"Inaction is not an option for the board as we have been told that remaining on the site puts lives at risk and that the school needs to move to a place of safety."
The letter addressed the proportion of 'in catchment' pupils which had decreased over seven years and seen 'significantly' more pupils from Ottery.
The governing body stressed the school was relocating and not closing and would expand over time to reach full capacity of 210 students.
The governing body said: "This scheme ensures the continuity of our church school with the same vision, ethos and values and the children will continue their education in new buildings with their existing staff and leadership.
"The growth will not happen overnight; it will take a number of years as more pupils joining the school will mean that we can fund another teacher."
The consultation finishes on November 18 and can be completed online.
https://www.devon.gov.uk/haveyoursay/consultations/proposal-for-a-primary-school-and-associatedresidential-development-at-thorne-farm-ottery-st-mary/ to respond to the consultation.