A recommendation to close a primary school has been approved by cabinet, triggering a consultation.
The move by Wigan Council’s cabinet at a meeting this afternoon means a formal consultation will soon be launched on the plan to close Shevington Community Primary School.
Parents and residents opposed to the plan had hoped cabinet would disagree with the council officer’s recommendation, which was revealed in a report for the meeting last week.
They have raised concerns about how the proposal will affect children getting to school, including the cost of travel for low income families and a lack of safe walking routes, as well as the disruption moving schools will cause to pupils.
But James Winterbottom, director of children’s services, told the meeting that it was not financially viable to maintain the current situation at Shevington Federation.
He said: “Because funding is on a per pupil basis from the dedicated schools grant from central government, any ongoing maintenance of the surplus places would have to be subsidised by other schools across the borough.
In the back of our minds we still want to save all three schools but now it is more about the transition and making sure the children are at the forefrontVicky Sudworth, chair of the Save Shevington Federation
“Any change to school place provision needs to be managed really carefully and should the plan be carried out we will work hard with the schools to ensure all children, especially those with special educational needs, are fully supported to minimise disruption to their education and around travelling to school, walking routes and other issues that may arise.”
Coun Jo Platt, cabinet member for young people, moved that the report be approved but reiterated that she felt the council needed to continue to work with the community to ensure disruption was kept to a minimum.
She said: “Highways need to look at the infrastructure and specific routes to school. The decision to get to this stage has not been taken lightly. It has been carefully considered.
“Parents should rest assured the council will work with them in this process if the report is passed within the next stage of the consultation.”
Details of the next stage of the consultation are expected to be announced soon, the results of which will be considered by cabinet in January.
Vicky Sudworth, the chair of Save Shevington Federation, which has been campaigning to keep all three schools open, said: “I think going forward it is about the transition and highways which was brought up in the meeting. That is what parents are most concerned about.
“Some of the children are as young as four and it is far for them to walk all the way down the hill and then up again to Vale.
“We have done some research and for a parent to get the bus from Shevington and back again would cost £32 a week which low income families, which some of the pupils come from, are just not going to be able to afford that. “We have got more meetings planned and we are meeting with Mr Winterbottom again next week to further discuss some of our concerns.
“In the back of our minds we still want to save all three schools but now with it going forward it is about the period of transition and making sure the children are at the forefront of it all.”
Lord Smith, who chaired the meeting, thanked the staff at the federation for their work improving education in Shevington and said any decision was no reflection on them.
Gabriel Gray, executive headteacher at the federation said: “As executive headteacher of the Shevington Federation I am extremely proud of our three wonderful schools.
“Over the years we have learned to work and grow together so that the whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts. We are blessed with outstanding teachers and support staff, as well as supportive parents and marvellous children.
“However, falling rolls, particularly at the two smaller schools, have been a challenge for some years. Working with the Governing Body and the local authority, we have explored every possible option for retaining three schools that are financially viable and able to offer the high quality education that is described in our aims.
“I am confident that merging the resources of Shevington Vale and Shevington Community on one site as is proposed, will create a second full and vibrant school alongside Millbrook and that the two will continue as now as a strong and successful Federation, but with a secure future.
“I fully understand how painful this process has been for everyone, but now we need to look forward. It has always been important to me that our schools belong to their local community.
“I, along with my successor Mrs Tomlinson, am fully committed to working with our local authority officers to build that better future for the children of Shevington and Appley Bridge.”