Don’t attack council staff

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It is clear that your correspondent Mr Griffin (letters, September 5) is impassioned regarding the proposals for new housing in Bolton-le-Sands.

However, it is wrong to publicly criticise individual council officers for simply doing their job.

I must point out that the professional advice given to councillors has been given by qualified and Chartered Town Planners using nationally accepted methodology on matters such as calculating housing need.

While Mr Griffin clearly believes his interpretations are right, he does not need to attack a public servant to make his point.

Mark Cullinan,

Chief executive

Lancaster City Council

Respect us at Skerton

Regarding Skerton High School consultation on closure – statement from the Governing Body.

The consultation on the closure of Skerton Community High School will begin shortly and all interested parties will have the opportunity to express their views as to whether a school such as this one is required to meet the needs of young people in the district.

Since the badly timed announcement of the county council’s decision to start this consultation was made public at the beginning of the summer holidays, many views have already been expressed in support of the school.

The comments and testimonies that have appeared on the petition website speak volumes about what the school has meant and continues to mean to parents and students past and present.

They are also indicative of the chasm will be left if this school closes.

It has been alleged in reported statements from County Hall, that the governing body has been consulted about the future of the school. This description is inaccurate.

Since the beginning of 2013, in correspondence with senior officers of the local authority governors have been required to agree that the school should close.

In response, we have repeatedly asked what provision would be made for our young people in the event of closure. Our frequently repeated question has been ignored.

Now we learn that there are ample places for them all in other schools, specifically and somewhat surprisingly, that two local high schools will welcome the 37 students who will enter Year 10 in September 2014.

This proposed solution demonstrates an alarming failure on the part of the local authority to establish the range of difficulties and challenges that our young people and their parents face on a daily basis or even to consider whether their relocation is in their best interests.

To close first, then ask a question afterwards is irresponsible where young lives are at stake.

Our students are all special in a whole variety of ways.

A significant proportion have already tried and failed to make progress in other local schools.

Those parents whose children have complex special needs or who have endured relentless bullying in other schools have found the answer to their prayers at Skerton.

The distribution of vulnerable youngsters around other local schools is not an acceptable alternative and is one that students, staff, parents and governors will resist.

Financial factors having been set aside, the school stands condemned on the grounds of poor academic standards and decreasing numbers. The former claim is simplistic.

It fails to take into consideration that, given the range and nature of secondary school provision in Lancaster, Skerton does not have a typical distribution of ability or that a large proportion of our young people have to overcome many obstacles in their lives that are barriers to their learning and progress.

That said, each year a small number of our students do achieve the highest grades and have gone on to sixth form and university. External measurements and national benchmarking do not allow recognition of the fact that a proportion of youngsters achieve beyond what they would have done elsewhere. Over the last six years, the local authority has refused to support a number of proposals from the governors that would have enabled the school to grow and develop. The rumour and uncertainty that has consequently hung over the school for all that time has had a destructive impact on the growth of the school population.

Some years ago, an officer of the local authority commented that Skerton was the cheapest special school in the county. We maintain that it still is.

The Ofsted inspection report demonstrates very clearly all the reasons why Skerton should be regarded as special.

For example, the proportion of children who are particularly vulnerable or who have free school meals is twice the national average, the proportion of children with special needs is double that nationally, late entry into the school is well above the national average.

Inspectors paid tribute to the very high level of nurture, care and support that students receive individually. Skerton is a truly inclusive school.

The vast majority of young people who come from elsewhere are given a second chance regardless of the risk that their attendance and achievement might well have a negative impact on judgements about the performance of the school.

We are proud of our inclusivity but are being made to pay the ultimate price for it.

So what of this consultation process?

We have heard the cabinet member assert on local radio that closure is not a foregone conclusion. Do we believe this? We recall the Hornby experience. The omens emanating from County Hall are not good.

The inconsiderate timing of the decision to consult and the structure of the process arouse suspicion.

Senior officers should be prepared to face in a public forum those whose lives could be radically affected by their decisions but are not scheduled to do so.

Nevertheless, we will fight to keep the school. We trust that the power of public opinion in favour of this school will sway elected members in the County Council.

Above all, we believe passionately that parents, present and in the future, need a range of choices for their children.

Our overriding conviction is that all children have the right to receive an education that is appropriate to meet their individual needs in an environment in which they feel safe and can thrive.

Susan Willoughby (Mrs), Chair of Governors, Pat Quinton, Roger Frankland, Andrew Manwaring, Sandra Jones, Karena Kyne, Janet Hall, Karen Leytham, Jez Reay

Governing Body of Skerton Community High School

Cheap jibe from MP.

An open letter to David Morris

Dear David, how low you have stooped.

I will stand to be corrected but in all her time as our MP I can never remember Geraldine Smith using the previous MP Sir Mark Lennox Boyd as a comparison for her own performance representing Morecambe.

Listening to your interview on Radio Lancashire you have already attended to how you can save on your expenses. With a little more attention to detail you could have been more careful in the first place and avoided such poor publicity.

In the same interview you claimed that you have “got them a road”. I assume this is the M6 link.

Please tell me where it starts so I can use it.

If this road ever materialises there are many people in the pro-road category who have worked long and hard for it, long before you came along David.

Instead of championing the NHS at national level, please turn your efforts to save our Alzheimer’s/dementia assessment unit at Altham Meadows.

This unit is the only remaining assessment unit with beds for dementia patients in North Lancashire and is planned to close at the beginning of December.

It’s not only for people who suffer from this horrible disease now. There may come a time when you and I might need it.

Stop chasing Andy Burnham MP and use your energy fighting to save facilities in your own back yard. Your comments on Altham Meadows to date are yet to be heard; they are almost deafening.

The jibe that you are still cheaper than your predecessor was not necessary but perhaps she was worth twice the value.

Malcolm O’Neil

Address supplied

High cost of turbines

Professor Whitelegg somewhat overstates the impact of wind turbines in Denmark when he states that one third of their energy comes from them.

Thirty percent of their electricity came from wind turbines in 2012, but that is less than half of their energy use. A closer figure is fifteen percent. It is worth noting that in 2012 Denmark had the highest electricity prices in the EU, some 66 per cent higher that the UK.

Norman Wilson

High Road


Blackspot backs Link

Your item on page three of the Lancaster Guardian, September 5, Fatality fears at city’s accident black spot, illustrates perfectly, one, just one, of the many reasons why the construction of the M6 to Heysham is long overdue.

Harry Yeadon, in his book The Motorway Achievement, describes how the initial design of the Lancaster bypass section of the M6 included a modified junction 34 to accommodate access to the proposed link. Here we are 60 years on and still no link road.

Anyone who travels in to Lancaster (by whatever means) via the A683 can see clearly the problems suffered by the drivers of 44-tonners, and all sorts of other vehicles, staggering to and from the Lancaster/Morecambe/Heysham conurbation via a switchback of unsuitable roads to access the M6.

In 1958 when construction began of Lancaster bypass there was perhaps not a strong case for the link to Heysham, but how things have changed in the intervening years, just one example being the massive development and expansion of the port of Heysham, and another, all the industrial estates that have sprung up between there and the M6.

Having followed the planning process down the years via your newspaper and other media sources I am aghast at the contrivances of politicians to prevent the road being built.

It has gone on and on, and even as I write we await the decision from a judicial review as a result of a last throw (I hope) by the anti-lobby. I had hoped to live to see this project built and completed, but at 78-years-young, I’m beginning to wonder.

Sam Ashton

Main Street


PS: Harry Yeadon also reminds us that the actual design of junction 34 was originally intended to provide access only for emergency vehicles, but following a local outcry it was made available to all traffic.