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Updated: Schools consultation branded a sham
3:10pm Friday 6th March 2009 in News
THE architects of plans to close two Colchester secondary schools did not listen to the views of parents, residents and politicians, a meeting heard.
About 100 people had their say on Essex County Council plans to close Thomas, Lord Audley and Alderman Blaxill schools.
Council leader Lord Hanningfield was questioned about the reason thousands of votes for Option Four, to retain the schools, under the control of Stanway School, were ignored.
He told the meeting at the Weston Homes Community Stadium the three schools would have attracted £750,000 less in revenue each year, making the option unviable.
“I’m afraid it was never a starter,” he said. “It was never possible to operate it – for financial or legal reasons.
“We have well-thought-out proposals by a group of education officers. This is a plan for an excellent educational system in Colchester for the future.”
Borough councillor Lesley Scott-Boutell said: “In the last round of consultation, 4,400 people signed the petition supporting Option Four and a further 2,254 signed a petition entitled Save Our Local School.
“This is what the people of Colchester wanted. Listen to what the local people say. Is this true consultation, or just an exercise in telling us what we’re going to get?”
Richard Doyle, who has put four children through Thomas, Lord Audley, said County Hall should encourage strong schools to help struggling ones, rather than closing them.
He said: “I really like the idea of strong schools holding out their hands to schools which need it.”
County director of learning, Terry Reynolds, said there were problems with Option Four, particularly the fact the Government’s funding formula would mean less money for the schools.
He said: “Running a school with £750,000 less a year, in our view, would call into question whether Option Four was financially viable.
“It also wouldn’t have dealt with removing surplus capacity.”