Fighting on to save St Guthlac

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PARENTS are vowing to fight to save Crowland’s St Guthlac School from closure – and will look at opening it as a free school if that proves workable.

Lincolnshire County Council held a formal consultation at the school on Thursday night as plans progress to create an academy based at the George Farmer Technology College in Holbeach.

The academy plans are sponsored by the University of Lincoln, which is due to begin its own consultation within the next few days.

If the academy plans go ahead, both St Guthlac and George Farmer are set to close on August 31 and jointly reopen as an academy on September 1.

But the long-term aim is to base all teaching at Holbeach – and abandon the St Guthlac site.

Parent Jim Astill, of the Save St Guthlac Campaign, said: “We are pleased there was a good turnout at the Crowland consultation meeting on February 16.

“There were lots of questions asked but not many answers coming from the panel.

“In particular, if this goes ahead, there was no clear indication on if or when the St Guthlac’s site would actually close, or if there would be any future intake to the St Guthlac’s site beyond what is planned for September 2011.”

Mr Astill said it seems the county council will pass the decision on whether to close St Guthlac to the academy – and accused the authority of passing the buck.

Following the public meeting, Mr Astill was one of a number of parents and community members who met to discuss the way ahead.

He said: “Amongst many items discussed, a free school was something the group felt was an option to be looked at.”

Mr Astill said he would like as many people as possible to respond to the consultation while other options – such as the free school – are explored.

He said: “Our main aim is to secure the secondary education in Crowland for the long term by whatever means are viable.”

County council head of property and technology management Paul Holmes told the packed public meeting that an independent headteacher had assessed St Guthlac and concluded it would be in significant deficit by 2015.

He continued: “The proposal is that two schools close and one academy opens. They don’t see the future of this site as being of any significant length of time. How many years we can’t say at this stage.”

The Crowland and Holbeach schools came together in one federation five years ago and have one governing body, chaired by Chris Penney, of Langwith Builders, which is one of the partners in the academy project.

David Bliss – who chaired the governing body at Crowland before the federation launched – said the whole point of St Guthlac joining the federation was to secure secondary education in Crowland.

Mr Bliss continued: “I am really sad, personally, to be in here tonight because this is exactly what I didn’t want to see happening in terms of secondary education leaving this town.”

Mr Penney replied: “You are absolutely right. The intention was to preserve the education here.”

Among concerns raised at the meeting by parents were the county council doing little or nothing to combat falling pupil numbers at the school, the economic and social effects on Crowland if it loses its only secondary school and the poor road link for school buses travelling from Crowland to Holbeach.

l The first phase of the county council consultation runs to March 16. Responses will be collated and a statutory notice will be published during the first week of April. The public get a second bite of the cherry between April and June – when they can comment again – and then the county council executive committee will make its decision on July 5. The county council consultation document can be downloaded from www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/provisionplanning under ‘current consultations’. Questions can be asked by calling 01522 553392.