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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Villagers out in force with one clear message: Save Our School

VILLAGERS turned out in force to protest against the closure of their only school.

Campaigners fighting to save Bootle’s Captain Shaw’s School stepped up their protest with a march through the village on Saturday.

They have also been backed by Copeland MP Jamie Reed, who spoke in Parliament last week of the “profound consequences” the Bootle community would face if the school closes.

The school – Cumbria’s smallest with just 16 pupils – faces being shut down after Cumbria County Council issued a closure notice last month.

Although campaigners called on councillors to re-examine the evidence, a special scrutiny board upheld the decision and will not send the decision back to the county council’s Cabinet.

On Saturday, schoolchildren and residents held their homemade banners; some proclaiming ‘SOS – Save Our School’, ‘Small is great, don’t shut our school’ and ‘Hands off it’s our school’.

Children and residents in wheelchairs proudly joined the march at the front while a tractor carrying a scarecrow dressed as Captain Shaw made up the rear.

Chairman of the governors at Captain Shaw’s, James Thomas, said he was still hopeful the school could be saved.

He said: “We are here to raise the profile of our fight to keep the school, which is the heart of the village.

“The school is so much more than just a school; it’s about more than children, it’s about the whole community and if you lose the facility for children there is nothing to bring families to the village. I’m working hard, we’re all working hard, and we’re still hopeful.”

The march went from the football club to the school, where pupils sang a song and refreshments were available to the protesters.

Those who took part in the march included families and individuals who do not have children at the school but are still determined to fight for the community’s facility.

Jim Jones lives in Captain Shaw’s former house in Mill Street and has lived in Bootle for more than 26 years.

Mr Jones said: “It’s the future of the village; they’re planning on building some new homes and that will require a school.

“If they take the school away, they take away the criteria for the new homes – with no school, families will not want to move here.”

The council will make its final decision on closing the school in April following a six-week consultation period, but if it goes ahead, Captain Shaw’s would formally close on August 31 and all pupils would be transferred to Waberthwaite.

Mr Thomas added: “At the moment, more than half our pupils live within walking distance. If Captain Shaw’s is shut down, the children will have to go to Waberthwaite, which is more than three miles away and no one will be able to walk to school any more.”

The protest came only days after Copeland MP Jamie Reed spoke in support of Captain Shaw’s during a Parliamentary debate on the future of rural schools.

Mr Reed said: “The school is the centre of Bootle; it is its beating heart, its focal point and, in many ways, its pride.

“If Captain Shaw’s School is taken away from Bootle, the consequences will be profound. Every time I have visited the school I have been impressed by it. There is a genuine warmth and passion about the school, and the pupils demonstrate a tremendous sense of pride and belonging.

“The school mirrors the community. It is doing more than getting by. It is handsome, notable and unique.

“It is supported by an indomitable spirit and is proud of its past and ready to take on the challenges of the modern world.”

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