Governors at West Somerset College have voted to pursue plans for a merger of schools in the district. But it is very unlikely that Minehead Middle School will be included.
Labour has responded to last night’s vote by calling on all schools to work together in the best interests of pupils and parents across West Somerset.
A governors’ meeting this week backed the idea of what is called a Multi-Academy Trust. The college, Danesfield and Dulverton Middle Schools, and a number of first schools would combine under a single governing body. The idea was given overwhelming backing – with only one governor voting against.
The chair of governors at the college, Martin McNeill, described the plan as a “one-tier” system which would integrate education “from nought to nineteen.” He said it would create savings in back office costs, give a consistent approach with shared opportunity for learning, and put the focus on children, not organisation.
But as things stand, about half the children in West Somerset would not be fully included, because they attend Minehead Middle School and its associated first schools. The Middle School is proposing to change its age range, so it can take pupils in years 9, 10 and 11 and offer GCSE courses. Mr McNeill said this idea had come “completely out of the blue” last month. And said: “I don’t think there’s a heck of lot we can do.”
In a meeting which lasted almost two hours, only three or four minutes were spent discussing the plans of Minehead Middle School – which is half a mile down the road from where the governors were meeting. But Mr McNeill said afterwards that the college’s position is that the door is open for the middle school to join the proposed trust.
‘Attempting to engage’
The Middle School governors are blaming the college for the lack of communication. In a letter to the Labour Party, their chair, Martina Forster, said: “We have been attempting to engage with them (the college) for 18 months. They have been deaf to our pleas. We have acted to protect our own school.”
The frostiness between Minehead Middle and the college contrasts with improved relations between the college and Danesfield Middle School in Williton. Mr McNeill said” We have come a long way to get Danesfield talking” And the college principal, Gaynor Comber, said: “Danesfield are very interested and excited”
West Somerset Labour Party secretary Andy Lewis attended last night’s meeting. He said:
“We believe everyone should work together to tackle the difficulties faced by education in West Somerset. We hope it is still not too late for leading figures at the college and Minehead Middle School to try to find a joint approach.”