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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Children burst into song at meeting to save their school

PUPILS burst into song at a public meeting to lead the fight to save their school.

TWBOOTLE
heated discussion: At the meeting

Tempers flared as around 70 residents packed into Captain Shaw’s hall for a meeting with Cumbria County Council officers discussing the proposed closure of the school in Bootle – the county’s smallest school.

During a heated question and answer session, council officers were branded ‘liars’ before a former pupil burst into song.

Parents and governors joined the chorus before the school’s 16 pupils stole the show, marching into the meeting performing a rendition of Jessie J’s Price Tag.

School governor Trudy Harrison created an impromptu choir and changed the song’s refrain to include the lines “It’s about our education, for the future generation”.

Council officers were left stunned.

Caroline Sutton, assistant director for children’s services, said: “We know there are some outstanding achievements at Captain Shaw’s and that performance reminded me why I am doing this job. It was fantastic.”

The council has proposed closing Captain Shaw’s and merging its catchment area with the neighbouring Waberthwaite School.

Ms Sutton said: “The budget is balanced for this year but next year and beyond are not definite.

“The point here is the school can’t set a budget that will bring it back into surplus – this is because there is not enough children.”

However, when asked to specify Captain Shaw’s projected budget deficit Ms Sutton revealed it was just £13,000 but the council was not able to accept budgets with a deficit of more than eight per cent.

The cost of primary education in Cumbria is, on average, £3,831 per pupil per year but at Captain Shaw’s the average cost is £7,460.

She added: “The issue is not about the sum of money.

“The school’s budget anticipated bringing in over £2,000 (in additional funds raised).

“If the school can set a stable budget we can agree it’s not going to change the consultation at this point but it would give members more evidence when they come to make a decision.”

Andy Smart, county manager for school organisation, said Waberthwaite School would be able to hold around 90 pupils – should the closure go ahead.

Coun Ray Cole, who represents Millom on Cumbria County Council, said a new power station at Sellafield could bring many more families to the area.

The meeting heard about 53 proposed homes in Bootle.

Officers said that there were no concrete plans and speculation could not be considered.

The consultation closes on December 16.

Cumbria County Council’s cabinet will decide the future of the school on January 12.

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