An Isle of Wight Councillor has this week suggested Carisbrooke College on the outskirts of Newport could potentially close as a result of the amount of surplus school places on the Island and the falling number of parents sending children to the secondary school.
Newport West’s Cllr Chris Whitehouse has said that parents are worried that following poor GCSE results this year, mixed with surplus places across the Island’s school, the college – formally known as Carisbrooke High School – could close.
At last night’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Whitehouse had asked lead member for education, Cllr Jonathan Bacon, for a clear statement about the timetable for the public consultation and subsequent “difficult decisions” relating to capacity in the Island’s high schools and recorded the concern that parents and teachers at Carisbrooke College were expressing.
Cllr Whitehouse said:
“Many parents of students at Carisbrooke College, many teachers there, and many parents whose children may attend there in future years have been asking whether the College’s future is in doubt given the poor GCSE results this summer in which only 29% of pupils achieved 5 GCSE’s at A* to C including maths and English. Coming against the background of 3,000 surplus high school places on the Island, I can only say that yes, there has to be a question mark, whether we like it or not, over what is the best way forward.”
Responding to requests for clarification, Cllr Whitehouse has said:
“The Isle of Wight Council had been expected to consult before now on how that surplus capacity should be managed. But, says Cllr Whitehouse, “There have been delays in that consultation process because officers rightly wanted to ensure that all the data upon which decisions might be made would be accurate and comprehensive. That’s as it should be. This has meant that the applications for high school places in September 2015 actually close on 31st October. There will then be a consultation, one of the outcomes from which, theoretically, could be the possible closure of Carisbrooke College.
“That is not to say that any decisions have been made by the Council, they absolutely have not. But it’s perfectly understandable that parents are alarmed that they may have applied for places at a school which may, just may, in due course be designated for closure and not be accepting pupils next September. This is far from an ideal situation.
“There is a sword of Damocles hanging over the College. That’s not right and isn’t sustainable. Parents and teachers need a clear decision to be taken one way or the other. Children’s educational outcomes depend on the ending of that uncertainty, doubt and confusion. It’s now over a year since officers first calculated that the Island has such substantial surplus capacity in its high schools and I have pressed consistently for a public debate about how to manage that capacity.
“I welcome the reassurance I was given by Cllr Bacon this evening that things would move forward to public consultation, albeit this will be several months later than originally planned. I also assured Cllr Bacon both this evening and in private meetings that he will have my full support in making what will be difficult decisions about all our high schools and their sixth forms provided those decisions are based upon good and comprehensive data and that the overriding test is what’s best for our children, not what’s most convenient for us politicians.
“As I did with Cllr Bacon’s predecessor, Cllr Richard Priest, I will work with him, putting party politics on one side, to drive up education standards on the Island. I know that commitment on my part has the support of my local residents.”
Executive member for children’s services, Councillor Jonathan Bacon, has made the following statement this afternoon (Thursday):
“Although the council will be launching a consultation on plans to tackle surplus places in our secondary schools, details are still being finalised and I can categorically say no decisions have been made.
“As I outlined at full council last night (15 October), at this stage there is no suggestion a specific school may close. I do not wish to engage further in public speculation about individual schools as it is not helpful, may raise fears unnecessarily and as such would not be a responsible course of action for me to take.
“The issue of education on the Island is one we take seriously and we are working hard with all schools to improve educational standards.”