Campaigners have challenged the legality of a proposed plan to close a primary school in Wigan.
Save Shevington Federation was set up after Wigan Council launched a consultation in June asking parents, residents and teachers what they thought of a plan to close one of the three primary schools in the village.
There has been strong opposition to any of the schools closing and just days before the consultation is due to close, the campaign group has questioned the legal grounding for the proposal in an open letter to the council.
They say information provided about the schools is misleading while the layout is preventing people from providing an informed response, rendering the consultation unlawful.
The letter, which is addressed to the council’s director of children’s services James Winterbottom, raises what the campaign group calls its four “fundamental objections” to the consultation, which could result in either Shevington Community, Shevington Vale or Millbrook Primary School being closed.
The council has proposed the closure of one of the schools in a bid to tackle a surplus of places in the area but concerns have been raised that the way the demand has been calculated gives a misleading impression.
The four objections are:
The presentation and structure of the consultation document prevents the community providing informed feedback
The case presented for the surplus school places in the area is undermined by the exclusion of data from new build estates in Shevington Moor meaning the consultation and evidence on which it is based are “flawed”
Closure of a primary school should be a last resort and no evidence has been provided of consideration of other alternatives
A closure would be detrimental to the physical health and wellbeing of children as it will mean an increased number of car journeys, distance travelled to learn and exposure to traffic pollution and a road safety risk
The letter concludes: “We believe the process carried out to date is unlawful. Where is the legal authority to commence this consultation? Please provide us with a copy of the actual decision to progress this.
“We look forward to working in partnership with you to develop robust approaches and strategies to ensure all of the Federation’s schools can be supported to continue to deliver outstanding opportunities to their communities.”
The consultation will close on Sunday, meaning residents have just days left to have their say, while a petition calling for all the schools to remain open has been signed by almost 2,000 people.
Members from Save Shevington Federation will present the petition to the council today, Friday, at around 11am.
A council spokesman said they were unable to comment further on the process or respond specifically to the group’s allegations until the consultation has closed.
However, Mr Winterbottom said maintaining high quality education across Shevington was driving the changes.
He added: “The council is committed to ensuring that every child in the borough has access to high quality education and we fully understand that parents will have concerns and views about the future of the school’s in Shevington.
“This is why we are carrying out a consultation, to set out the challenges of pupil numbers in the area, the impact of this on the schools and children, and to give parents a chance to have their say
“We’ve had lots of feedback from residents during the consultation who have asked a number of questions on the details. As a result we’ve produced a set of FAQs to help clarify these issues. These can be found on our website next to the consultation.
“I would like to reassure families and the community that whatever decision is taken after the consultation it will be taken firmly in the best interest of the children and their future development.
“All responses received to the public consultation will be carefully considered before any decision is taken.”
The responses to the consultation will be analysed before being considered by the cabinet in August.
To provide your feedback visit wigan.gov.uk/Resident/Education/Schools/School-Admissions/Consultations/Shevington-schools-consultation.aspx.
Have your say before deadline ... With just two days until the consultation on the proposed closure of a Shevington school finishes, parents and residents are being urged to have their say.
The Shevington ward councillors have reminded anyone who has an interest in the issue to ensure they have responded to the consultation before the Sunday deadline.
The consultation asking residents, teachers and parents for their views on which of the three primary schools in the Shevington Federation should be shut to tackle a surplus of places in the area, was launched in June by Wigan Council.
Shevington Vale and Millbrook primaries are both rated as good while Shevington Community, which the consultation document highlights is operating at 50 per cent of its capacity, was recently rated as outstanding.
Campaigns have been launched calling for all three schools to be saved with separated appeals for each school as well while meetings and emergency talks have been held for parents to raise their concerns about the plan.
Coun Paul Collins said: “My ward colleagues Councillors Mike Crosby, Damian Edwardson and I fully support the campaign to protect all of our schools as the education and welfare of our children is of the utmost importance and is vital to ensure our children get the best possible start in life.
“We urge anyone who has an interest in this issue to ensure that they contribute to the consultation either by filling in the online form or if they do not have access to the internet I have placed paper copies of the consultation documents in Shevington Library, which people can use as an alternative to the online form.
“Additionally if there are people who have filled in an online form and have further feedback they wish to be considered then they can complete and submit an additional form with any new information or feedback that they may have if they wish.”
An extra page has also been added to the online document which allows people to have their say on the consultation process as well as the contents of the original document.