West Somerset Labour Party is calling on schools in the district to work together – and to pull back from a competitive scramble for pupils.
West Somerset has a three tier system of first schools, middle schools and a community college. But that is now under threat as Minehead Middle School has said it wants to become a secondary school, taking pupils up to the age of 16.
The development is the latest stage in a bitter conflict between the middle school and West Somerset College, which has announced that it wants to take younger pupils, aged 10 and 11 (in years 7 and 8). The school and college are both academies – outside the control of Somerset County Council and under no obligation to provide an integrated service.
Labour’s parliamentary candidate Mick Lerry said:“There is great danger of education becoming fragmented in West Somerset, rather than community schools working together. I feel sure that parents and carers in West Somerset want a good local school for their children. If the different schools seek to change their status from middle to secondary or to a junior school, with the added knock on affect to feeder schools, then there is a chance that this could lead to school closures. There has to be a better way where schools and colleges and communities work together in a collaborative way for the students of West Somerset.”
Dialogue of the deaf
The chairs of governors at the middle school and the college will see each other next Monday (February 3rd) at a meeting planned some time ago. But it seems it will be a dialogue of the deaf. In a letter to the Labour Party , the middle school chair, Martina Forster said “The time for talking with the West Somerset College has passed.” Mrs Forster complains that the college have been “deaf to our pleas”. And she openly says “our vision for the future is that there should be two secondary schools in Minehead.”
The conflict in Minehead has its roots in a crisis at Dulverton, where the future of the middle school is at risk because of cuts in government funding. Mick Lerry called for Somerset County Council to step in, saying: “The funding of Dulverton Middle School should be seen as part of the funding for a collection of schools within the three-tier system of education in West Somerset.”