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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Villagers to march in bid to save school

A MARCH has been organised to protest the closure of Cumbria’s smallest school.

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closing: Captain Shaw’s School, Bootle,

Those concerned at the potential closure of Captain Shaw’s in Bootle are invited to Saturday’s peaceful march through the village, which meets in the pavilion car park at 10.15am for a 10.30am start.

The decision to march comes after a bid to force councillors to reexamine evidence used to issue a closure notice to the school was unsuccessful.

Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet issued the notice after a meeting on January 12. Councillor Sue Brown called for the decision to be re-examined on three grounds but a special scrutiny board upheld council reports and will not send the decision back to Cabinet.

Members of the children and young people’s scrutiny board had to consider if they felt the Cabinet had fully considered costs of transferring Captain Shaw’s pupils to Waberthwaite School, whether educational needs could be met and if the proposed Localism Act had been considered.

However, Coun Tina Macur, chair of the panel, said because the Localism Act was not legislature, it would not be considered.

The board ruled against Coun Brown’s call-in and a six-week consultation period is now under way.

Coun Brown told the meeting: “In the Cabinet meeting, (council leader) Eddie Martin said we’d get a second bite of the cherry – well, the second bite is imaginary and the cherry is invisible.

“I can’t see what’s coming out of the consultation at this stage that’s not already been heard – unless a legal challenge is made. That is why I wanted to bring this issue forward at this stage. I may well call in the next Cabinet decision on this.”

Coun Macur said: “While we fully understand and appreciate the strength of feeling these proposals for Captain Shaw’s have generated in the local community, we are satisfied that Cabinet did take its decision having fully considered the implications.

“Ultimately the most important aspect in all of this is the standard of education the children receive and that has to come first.”

Parent governor Abby Hardwick, speaking after the meeting, said: “We’re extremely disappointed the decision will not be sent back to Cabinet. There was more discussion on the issues surrounding Captain Shaw’s than in the Cabinet meeting.

“This brings us to a six-week period for representations and we will get everybody to make representations to the council on why we should stay open.

“We’ll come back to Cabinet and we will use the public participation. Hopefully the Cabinet will listen to us and debate whether we should stay open.”

Mrs Hardwick said, should the objectors fail to convince the council to support the school, they will consider other options. She said: “If the final decision goes against us, we will look at the possibility of setting up an academy or free-school.”

Deputy chair of the board, Keith Little, said should the governors set up a free-school, the council would be morally bound to cooperate.

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