Teacher’s fight to save school

Longstanding Skerton High School teacher Paul Clark.
Longstanding Skerton High School teacher Paul Clark.

As the fight to save Skerton High School from closure continues, Paul Clark, an English teacher who has worked at the school for 39 years, tells us why he feels so strongly that the school should remain open.

In 2014, Skerton Community High School will celebrate its 80th birthday.

Since 1934, it has educated children from the Skerton area and beyond, setting them off on the right path to a successful future.

I first came to Skerton in 1975, intending to stay for two or three years.

This term, I have just started my 39th year as a teacher of English, so I have worked at the school for about half of the time that it has been open.

I have served under eight head teachers, beginning with Brian Sandford, and I have taught thousands of Skerton children.

I am now teaching the grandchildren of the pupils I first taught in the 1970s.

Unsurprisingly, I am fiercely opposed to any plans to close this school.

Skerton High is a small school which really does make a big difference to the lives of the children who attend it.

It is a friendly school, a family school which for nearly 80 years has opened its doors to the local community.

After a lifetime of service here, I still enjoy every day that I come to work.

Skerton gets into your blood. As many supporters of the campaign to keep Skerton High open have already testified, the school does a remarkable job in teaching some of the most vulnerable pupils in the district.

They are special children and the education which they receive at Skerton is special.

The local authority claim that these children could be educated elsewhere next year.

They say there are spare places available in other schools.

The numbers add up. But our children are not numbers. They are individuals. Many are fragile and it is heartbreaking to hear the fear in their voices when they talk about the possibility of their school closing.

Their parents want them to stay at Skerton where they feel settled, where they feel safe.

In the consultation booklet, Mr Tomlinson says that “we want all children and their parents to have pride in their local school.”

As teachers we are proud. Our parents are proud. Our children are proud.

The cost of continuing to educate them at Skerton High School is not too high. It is money well spent.

Moreover, besides providing a haven for children with a variety of special needs, we also offer teaching which ensures that our more able students achieve academic success.

Over the years, many of my pupils have gone on to local sixth forms before gaining places at universities all over the country. Some are now doctors, journalists, successful business leaders and university lecturers.

Only a few months ago a former pupil visited the school to tell me she was off to teach English in China!

Other pupils find employment in Lancaster and I regularly encounter some of them whenever I am in the city centre.

They always ask about Skerton and about the staff who used to teach them years ago. They remain loyal to their school and have fond memories of the time they spent here.

Today, I make a direct appeal to those former pupils. Now is the time to stand up and be counted.

Now is the time for you to fight to keep your school open.

If this really is a genuine consultation, then Mr Tomlinson has to listen. So let him hear your voice. Please sign the petition, write a letter or attend the public meeting which has been called to protest against the proposed closure of the school.

Look on the school website for links. But don’t stop there. Contact friends you know who used to go to Skerton and urge them to get involved as well.

One of the highlights of my career as a teacher at Skerton was the Golden Jubilee we celebrated in 1984, marking our first 50 years as a secondary school in Lancaster.

How wonderful it would be to see the school still open in 2034, commemorating its 100th birthday!

With your help this is a fight we can win. This is a fight we will win. Skerton Community High School must not close.

nA public meeting is to be held at Skerton High School on Thursday, October 3 at 6.30pm. It will be attended by MP David Morris and Skerton head Chris Snell.