This report outlines the outcomes of the formal consultation (statutory representation) period on the Council’s proposal to change St Nicholas from an infant to a primary school, by way of statutory prescribed alteration.The Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee is asked to consider the report and make comment for inclusion within the outcomes report to Cabinet.
The Programme Lead, School Organisation and Capital Services, introduced the report which provided the outcome of the formal consultation in relation to the Council’s proposal to change St Nicholas CE VC Infant School to a primary school, by way of statutory prescribed alteration. The consultation resulted in four responses, three in support of the proposal and one opposed. It was explained that if the proposals were agreed and implemented, then Gordon Junior School would consult on lowering its (Published Admission Number (PAN) to 90 and Gordon Infant School would consult on increasing its PAN to 90, due to the knock on effect of children no longer transferring from St Nicholas CE VC Infant School to Gordon Junior School.
It was then confirmed by Councillor Hubbard that the objection recorded was submitted by him, however, he clarified that he did not object to the proposals being consulted on. His objection related to the process as he felt there should have been a parallel consultation carried out by Gordon Infant and Junior Schools at the same time rather than after the consultation about St Nicholas CE VC Infant School. Councillor Hubbard also raised concern about the possible intention of the Gordon Schools to build on its detached playing field.
In response it was explained that Gordon Infant School had been fully engaged and kept up to speed with developments and options around the consultation process. It was important to note that as an academy, Gordon Infant and Junior Schools were not obliged to consult on the changes because it resulted in an increase in capacity at the school. However, the school would be consulting once the outcome of the proposed changes at St Nicholas CE VC Infant School had been approved and it had been the academy’s choice to consult after the decision on St Nicholas CE VC Infant School was made.
In relation to the concern about the possible intention of the Gordon Schools to build on their detached playing field, officers confirmed that although it was an issue for the Trust to answer it considered it likely that the costs would be prohibitive in the current education financial climate, any proposals would need full consultation for both planning and education purposes and there had been no mention of this intention from the Trust with officers.
Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:
· Challenging the process for future similar situations – A Member asked whether there were any avenues of communication that could be used to suggest any future similar scenarios could be consulted on simultaneously. Officers confirmed that strong working relationships did exist with the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) but they had not considered that on this occasion it warranted escalation to the RSC for intervention.
· Consultation response rate – Concern was also raised about the low level of responses to the statutory consultation. Officers explained that as this was the second stage of consultation, following an informal stage which received more responses, this was expected and normal. This was also a proposal generally supported by all and therefore responses were anticipated to be low.
· Over allocation of faith school places – A query was raised as to whether too many school places were being provided at faith based schools. Officers confirmed that school places were being provided at locations across Medway where there was need and that these places were being provided at both faith and non-faith schools.
The Committee noted the report and the clarification that the objection had related to the consultation process and not the proposals itself and recommended that its comments be forwarded to the Cabinet.