Calls to halt Wigan school closure consultation

Unions have called for a consultation over the closure of one of two Wigan schools to be halted.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 10:33 am

Earlier this month the council announced that, due to falling pupil numbers, it was obliged to consider shutting either Abram Bryn Gates or Platt Bridge Holy Family Primaries and gave the public a say on the verdict.

But the latter school is in the process of becoming an academy - which would take it out of local authority control - and if it happens soon enough, it would mean the town hall couldn’t close it even if it wanted to.

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Abram Bryn Gates Primary

Wigan Trades Council says it doesn’t want either school to shut but adds that academisation of Holy Family would “leave Bryn Gates out in the cold.” It has called for the staff and parents of both schools to campaign jointly for both to remain open and demand the consultation be stopped.

However Bryn Gates says that a pause would only increase the likelihood of its closure. Both have pledged to put forward strong cases for remaining open.

A trades council statement read: “Parents and staff will gain nothing from another academy in Abram: local council support for their school will cease as will local accountability.

“Adding to this problem Holy Family is a faith school, Bryn Gates is not. Parents justly have a right to choose which school they prefer their children to be educated in. That choice is now under threat.

Holy Family School

“For both primaries, the consultations are seriously flawed and should be halted while staff and parents are given reasonable time to consider the implications of their schools’ position.

“The consultation is giving parents and staff options that are not options at all. Merging the schools is out of the question, and closing Holy Family will not happen because Government policy is to turn every school into an academy or free school: ie privatise the lot.

“Staff and parents from both schools must push for a stop to the consultation, must unite together to guarantee a future for both schools that rejects privatisation, rejects cash-based closures, and ensures all concerned are provided with secure stress-free jobs, a quality education for pupils, and a community that is not ignored by politicians and bureaucrats.”

Holy Family’s executive headteacher Janice Taberner said: “Holy Family Primary School Platt Bridge is subject to a direct academy order as a result of being in special measures in 2017.

“The school has been good since July 2019.

“All schools with an academy order in Liverpool archdiocese have to join St Joseph’s Multi-Academy Trust as ordered by the Department for Education.

“The school first knew of this in May 2021 and is not a decision due to closure. The earliest date of conversion would be March 1 but this has yet to be confirmed.

“If the school did convert on March 1 the local authority would not be in the position to close the school.”

Bryn Gates head Gillian Talbot said: “The community around Abram Bryn Gates Community Primary are devastated that the school may be forced to close.

“Parents choose to send their children here from all over the area due to our family feel and nurturing environment. In the last two years a number of children have moved from other local schools to Abram Bryn Gates due to its excellent reputation in the area.

“The LA have spent a significant amount of money on refurbishing the building over the last two years so to close us now would be a wasteful use of resources.

“Wigan has a very high number of faith schools so to close Abram Bryn Gates would deny parents of their choice to send their child to a non-faith school. There are no community schools close by with enough spaces for all the Abram Bryn Gates children to attend. Children of all faiths are welcome to attend Abram Bryn Gates as there are no expectations around church attendance or baptism into a faith.

“Our families do not want to send their children to a Catholic school so closing Abram Bryn Gates is highly unlikely to lead to a rise in numbers at Holy Family.

“We are aware that Holy Family is intending to become an academy but the process takes a long time and increasingly schools miss their conversion date. This means that Holy Family is not necessarily going to be saved from possible closure.

“It is untrue, however, to say that Holy Family have chosen to become an academy. They are under a forced academy order and have no choice.

“The fact that this consultation is running alongside the academy conversion is creating extra stress and upset for the staff, parents and governor at Abram Bryn Gates Community Primary School. To stop the consultation now though will almost definitely lead to Holy Family becoming an academy in the summer and put Abram Bryn Gates at risk again. Our families and staff deserve stability and to know what the future holds.

“The staff, parents, governors and local community will continue to fight for Abram Bryn Gates to remain open as we believe the school is an integral part of the community and is viable as a smaller school for now whilst the birth rate is lower and can grow again once the birth rate increases as it always does eventually.”

The council was asked if it would be postponing the consultation and received the following statement from Cath Pealing, assistant director for education. She said: “The local authority has a duty to review all school places to ensure they are sufficient which includes the oversupply as well as shortage of places. We are carrying out a consultation to consider our options for how we can address the surplus of places in this area and would encourage all stakeholders to give their views at this stage.

“All of the information collected will be considered.”

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