Heated debate as Gembling School faces closure

The meeting at Gembling School.
The meeting at Gembling School.

OVER 60 anxious parents, governors and parishioners attended a public meeting held by council officials about the future of Gembling Primary School.

On Monday evening a crowded classroom at the school was the venue for heated debate into why the school is threatened with potential closure – a possibility which could be implemented by the end of the current school year.

The meeting took place as part of the council’s consultation period, which is set to end on Friday March 8, and was led by Paul Butler, inclusion and access manager for East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

He was accompanied by Steve Attwood, the council’s pupil services manager and Gloria Reed, area improvement advisor for the school. Councillor Jane Evison and Councillor Jonathan Owen also attended in their capacity as ward representatives.

Mr Butler said: “East Riding of Yorkshire Council has always received a very low level of funding for its schools. Ever since it was created in 1996 we have been one of the lowest funded areas for schools.”

In March the Government is changing the way councils can fund schools, and will result in Gembling no longer receiving the small school allowance, which previously guaranteed small schools a level of income regardless of how many pupils were on the school roll.

It is predicted by the 2014-2015 financial year Gembling, which currently has 26 pupils, will be in deficit of -£15,650.

“If the pupil numbers continue to fall it will actually just get worse and we can’t see any way that the situation can get better,” said Mr Butler.

It was confirmed there would be places available at North Frodingham Primary School for all the Gembling pupils if the school was to close.

Catherine Vulliamy, who has one child at Gembling School, questioned Mr Butler over the length of time given for the consultation period, and asked for an extension.

Richard Sedman, whose two children aged five and nine attend the school, said: “My son has gone from hating school to saying he can’t wait to go to school in the morning since starting at Gembling. The school really suits him. Some children need to be at a small school where they can get more attention if needed.”

James Hinde, of the parent governors, said: “It makes me feel very proud to see everyone here tonight. It is a little school and we get a lot of emotion from these meetings.”

In a speech to those present headteacher Jane Moat said: “I just want to say a huge heartfelt thank you. What we do here is we work as a team and the team is far bigger than the staff and the children in this school, it is about you.

“We go far, far beyond the walls of this school but it needs people inside it to make it live. If you can see a way forward it would be the most wonderful thing for this area. I would be delighted to work alongside you and see if we can find a way.

“It is still a school and it is a vibrant place. We all have to come here every day and do our job and do our best for these children.”

Coun Evison and Coun Owen pledged to support a group of staff, school governors and a parent representative in getting their questions answered by the council.

They also said they would ask Mr Butler’s team for an extension on the consultation period in order for the group to formulate a business plan aimed at rescuing the school from closure.