Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Ampfield School

A group of concerned parents travelled to London today to lobby me about this. It is one of those frustrating occasions when there is a limited amount that an MP can do because the decsion is ultimately made by local councillors. Anyway I suggested a couple of things I could do tho try and help and they seemed reasonably happy but the more I think about this school closure the angrier I get.

The simple fact is that the committee voted (by a reasonable majority) to keep the school open. This decision was then overturned by the councillor who is the "Portfolio holder for education". Yet this is now quite legitimate behaviour - The new ways of working for councils were introduced in the early days of Labour Government and the more I see of the results the more certain I am that Labour has struck a blow against democracy.

There are other things that puzzle me about this as well. There is a presumption that rural schools should stay open and there is also a shortage of church school places in the area yet these very important facts do not appear to have been given due consideration. On top of all of this it is clear (and acknowledged) that the school had just suffered an unfortunate period when many children left the school for various reasons. The LEA did nothing to investigate why numbers fell quickly so must take some of the blame. I am confident that the staff, governors and parents will be able to turn the situation round and attract new children but the timing of the review is suspicious. It seems as if the school has been kicked whilst it was down and not given a chance to prove that the situation is reversible.

There was one lighter moment in front of the cameras.
Cameras were rolling as we arrived at Abingdon Green and we then assembled for a group shot. BBC journo asked the parents if they "had a chant" to be told
"We don't do chanting - we're from Ampfield"

I have to hand it to the journalist because after a short interchange of banter we all found ourselves chanting "Save our school" even though it was with a measure of self consciousness.