Letter: Eskdale case has not been made

Eskdale school.
Eskdale school.

I am extremely disappointed about the news regarding the possible future of Eskdale School in Whitby and the way in which this situation has been handled by North Yorkshire County Council.

My husband is a teacher at Eskdale School, I am a teacher at East Whitby CP School (one of the main feeder schools for Eskdale) and our daughter is currently a pupil at Fylingdales C of E VC Primary School (where I am also a parent governor).

She is hoping to go to Eskdale School in the future.

Since the news about Eskdale School came out, there has been no county council presence in Whitby to explain the thinking behind it, to reassure people, or to ensure the same message is presented to all.

There was evidently no proper plan of information dispersal in order to answer the many understandable concerns which would present themselves.

What about the concerns of the many people involved – Eskdale staff, students and parents; CCW staff, students and parents; as well as staff, students and parents at the feeder primary schools?

All these people need and deserve reassurance and explanations – even if that is only to say that ‘no decision has been made yet’ – as it is surely common courtesy to meet people face to face when confronting them with an issue like this.

Instead, Eskdale governors were left to break the news and attempt to explain what has been a county decision to Eskdale staff. Everyone else was left to scrabble about on social media for information.

It may be that the ‘consultation process’ hasn’t begun yet and ‘procedure’ demands a certain protocol. However, if we are to treat people as human beings this would always demand some form of courtesy and communication.

It should have been possible – for anyone who truly knows Whitby – to predict the strength of feeling this decision would prompt. And, therefore, anticipate the need for an explanation of this decision.

Over the past few years rumours of a merger between the three schools in Whitby have rumbled along, at times seeming to come to a point where something may happen. However, attempts to discuss it and work it out have met with resistance each time.

At no point along the way has the county council taken the proactive stance of truly working towards a solution with stakeholder’s input, or the time to come to an understanding of the point of view of people in Whitby.

If the county council had done this, I believe it could, at that point, have been possible to find a positive resolution with positive feelings between the school communities, which would then have enabled one ‘merged’ school to serve the town well – despite the fact that there would, as a result, be no ‘choice’ of school in the immediate locality.

Instead it feels more as if the county council has turned a blind eye to education in Whitby, refusing to come to a positive solution and ‘washing their hands’ of the town.

Now, it feels as though there is no longer such a positive atmosphere for change.

Too much time has lapsed and two of the schools have been allowed to ‘do their own thing’, while barriers have been put up for Eskdale at each step as it has tried to do the same – e.g. not allowing Academy status (when the government themselves are advocating all schools be academies within the next few years) and then, to cap it all, allowing Eskdale to set up 11-16 facilities from September 2016, to only go and pull that away at the last minute with no regard for the work, thought and effort that had already been spent.

It is not OK to trample over staff who have spent time preparing for the start of GCSE coursework, or families who have spent time considering option choices at this school. To cruelly raise and then dash the hopes of young people in this way is inexcusable. This position now gives a negative starting point for any proposed merger, to say the least.

The news of the ‘possible’ closure of Eskdale smacks of a ‘done deal’... I really hope not. The fight being shown within the people of this town deserves recognition by the people ‘in charge’.

They deserve to be listened to (finally) and it is time for the county council to be properly accountable to them and their families’ futures.

Julie Matthewson