Lancaster’s Skerton High will close despite the battle to save the city’s smallest secondary school.
The recommendation to close the Owen Road school will be officially rubberstamped by County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, on Thursday April 3.
But he has already publicly voiced doubt at the viability of the school’s future - so Skerton’s acting head Lyndon Day is preparing children and their parents for the worst.
Special meetings were held yesterday, Wednesday, to inform children and their parents that Lancashire County Council is likely shut the school from August 31. From today, support will be offered within school to those who need it.
Children will be moved to other secondary schools around the district.
Mr Day said a visit by Ofsted inspectors in February which showed the school was “making reasonable progress towards the removal of the serious weaknesses designation” was not considered as part of the consultation.
The school had previously been given an Ofsted rating of ‘inadequate’ in April 2013.
Mr Day said: “This is not the final decision, it is the authority’s recommendation, but I felt honour bound to hold meetings so that parents were kept up to date.”
“Obviously I am extremely disappointed that the council is not taking into consideration the hard work of the staff and pupils and the latest improvements that have been made.
“It has been officially recognised that we are making progress.”
It was first announced last August that the council would hold a consultation into plans to shut the school, which currently has 140 pupils.
The county council said falling rolls and poor grades were behind the decision.
During the consultation, 665 of 743 people who responded said they ‘strongly disagreed’ with the proposals.
City council chief executive Mark Cullinan also wrote on behalf of the city council, expressing concern at the proposals.
He said he was concerned about the negative effect the closure would have on the local community in Skerton.
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris has campaigned against the school’s closure locally and in Parliament.
He said: “It is extremely disappointing to hear that Lancashire County Council have again ignored the voices of the community and more importantly the pupils of Skerton High School and are going ahead with closure.
“The support for the school in the community is overwhelming, and it is clear from speaking to all of the pupils that the school is very highly regarded.”
Pupils will now be offered support, while parents will be asked to choose their preferred secondary schools for their children.
Mr Day said: “Skerton High will support the pupils during this difficult transition process.”
Several parents have already moved their children to schools in Cumbria after they were not allowed to speak to other Lancashire schools.
Mr Morris said: “The parents at Skerton High have been put in an incredibly difficult position and some have removed their children as they felt that the county council in Lancashire did not have their best interests at heart.
“It is disappointing that this has meant that the school is no longer viable to be forced by the Government into academy status as the numbers have been falling.
“This has also been a factor in a possible sponsor not being able to convert the school into a free school at this time.”
Mr Morris – who vowed at a public meeting last October that “on my watch this school is not going to close” – added: “Skerton has improved since its Ofsted rating last year and is expected to be taken out of the serious weaknesses category at the end of the academic year.
“I would now encourage groups to come forward and submit a free school application on the site and will offer my help to any group who would like to submit a bid.”