Letter: Children are at the heart of this facility

Eskdale school.
Eskdale school.

I refer to the excellent letter in last week’s Gazette ( January 29) from Ms Matthewson and wish to add my concerns regarding the proposed closure/merger of Eskdale School.

The impact this has had on the whole community, due to the way in which the information was made public and the way decisions appear to have been made by the county council behind closed doors, has been enormous.

Firstly, Eskdale School is an inspirational facility. It is popular with parents, students and the local community. It provides a nurturing educational environment that puts children at the heart of all it does. It has a philosophy of experiential learning that supports and drives forward educational and social development. I was fortunate enough to visit last week and an impromptu visit to classrooms confirmed that the students were engaged and motivated, relationships between staff and pupils were excellent and opportunities to extend learning existed both inside and outside the classroom. In short, this was a very happy, well-motivated environment - the sort of school I would be happy to send a child to.

Secondly, the way in which this news was eventually made public was an affront to the parents, staff and children. The county council and governors appear to have made decisions without staff or parental consultation. Where is the honesty, transparency and accountability of decision making in this process? After having had the 11-16 curriculum approved, after children and parents had made choices about their future options and after staff have doubtless been preparing for new GCSE curricula, the rug has well and truly been pulled from beneath their feet. The sense of disbelief, uncertainty and outrage amongst the school and local community is understandable. As Ms Matthewson so rightly commented, this whole sorry process has created an extremely negative starting point for any future debate or merger. It is equally understandable that parents have mounted a vigorous campaign to save what they value as a very precious educational facility.

Eskdale School serves a very specific community and it is this very ethos that is held dear by the parents who choose to send their children there. As a retired teacher of nearly 40 years’ experience, I can say with some authority that, in education, “one size does not fit all.” The impact this decision is having on both the current student population, their parents and those who have selected to transfer to Eskdale is highly damaging and unsettling to say the least. What price the emotional, social and academic well-being of children?

The government has trumpeted the importance of parental choice, yet it feels as though the people of Whitby have no choice and no voice. Parents choose to keep the school open and on its former course. For the sake of the community and the well-being of the children, I hope the county council will listen, respect and take on board the views of the people of Whitby.

Heather Relf

Esk Terrace, Whitby