Details of how a new school would work if Eskdale and Caedmon College merge were revealed this week - prompting fears that the proposal is already a done deal.
At two heated and packed-to- the-rafters public meetings held at Whitby Pavilion on Monday and Tuesday there were claims that North Yorkshire County Council were rail-roading the staff, parents and pupils into a merger that the majority are not in favour of.
Monday’s meeting opened with a presentation from Pete Dwyer, corporate director for children and young people’s services and Caroline Bird, the assistant director for strategic planning.
She said a steering group involving both schools had been working on the practicalities of a merged establishment, which would be called “Whitby School”.
Other features include:
n Reconstituted governing body of 12 members
n Existing Eskdale/Caedmon pupils will be enrolled, new ones must apply
n Years 7 and 8 on Eskdale site from September 2016, other year groups at Caedmon
n Sixth form operates on Scoresby site
n New uniform based on current Caedmon one with new badge and tie
n Caedmon headteacher remains as head of new school.
Independent councillor and former chairman of Eskdale governors, Mike Ward said: “I am just not clear what we are consulting on. If I came into this room thinking it was not a foregone conclusion, I am leaving absolutely knowing it is a foregone conclusion. Caroline Bird’s presentation was what the new school was going to look like. Have we decided there is going to be a new Whitby School or are we prepared to listen to alternative options?”
There were cheers from the 500-strong crowd when it was suggested that if the public of Whitby wanted two 11-16 schools it would be considered, but they were warned it would be at the risk of losing the 6th form as allocated government funding would then have to be re-directed.
While Mrs Bird also dismissed claims Eskdale was being sold off to housing developers, the issue of it being a financial-led decision was raised again.
This year Eskdale is expecting to be running at a £100,000 deficit and Caedmon at £160,000. By next year this is predicted to be £134,000 and £180,000 respectively.
Charlotte Angus said: “I don’t want my child going to Caedmon. I don’t see why we are doing this. It is not about my daughter’s education, it is about the money. End of.”
Mr Dwyer said: “It is about educational improvements in Whitby. They only reason money matters is because the money allocated to schools pays for teachers. That is where schools have a problem and if they deal with it separately there will be reductions in both schools and students will suffer. There is no benefit to the financial position of NYCC that would come through this debate.”
After two meetings, a mass protest before each featuring at least 200 people, a rendition of a specially recorded song with pupils of Eskdale and East Whitby youngsters and singer Alistair Griffin, the panel were left in no doubt as to public view on the consultation.
Louise Cornforth added: “Two months ago I started a petition. Five thousand signed in three weeks. That shows the passion that everyone has for Eskdale. Plus 100,000 viewed the Alistair Griffin video. I don’t know how you can justify closing the school to keep the sixth form open.”
The deadline for public comments is Monday April 4 and a final decision is set to be made on June 14.