Advertising
 
Posted by: John Brace | 28th March 2014

What did officers say about Lyndale School in reply to “how much money you would expect to get if you sold that land?”

What did officers say about Lyndale School in reply to “how much money you would expect to get if you sold that land?”

 

Councillor Paul Doughty asks a question of Julia Hassall about confidence in the Lyndale School closure consultation

Councillor Paul Doughty asks a question of Julia Hassall about confidence in the Lyndale School closure consultation

Julia Hassall (Director of Children’s Services) and David Armstrong (Assistant Chief Executive) answer questions from councillors on the Lyndale School closure consultation decision

Continuing from yesterday’s transcript of the Coordinating Committee meeting is a transcript of the next fourteen minutes of what officers said at the Coordinating Committee meeting of the 27th February 2014 that was to reconsider the Cabinet decision to consult on closing Lyndale School. On April 2nd, Wirral Council plan to start a twelve week consultation on the closure. The Cabinet report titled “Report seeking approval to consult on the closure of Lyndale School” can be read on Wirral Council’s website.

JULIA HASSALL
..are all included within the admissions book.

(heckling) I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it.

JULIA HASSALL
OK, if there are individual parents who are saying this evening they’ve not received that, then that’s something I will continue to look into.

(heckling)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
So, quite right. My second question is errm, if you look at the, well the information tonight page 141, 140 to 141 2.5 if you skip the bullet points and go straight to the paragraph at the top of page 141, I won’t read the whole paragraph out but it just says that the changes proposed over a two year period, April 2014 to 16 and will be kept under review with regular reports to the Schools Forum. You’re looking to consult on closure for Lyndale, oh sorry.

JULIA HASSALL
Sorry Chair, is this the second report?

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
It’s the err…

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
The first.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
It’s the 21st of March?

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
Quite right, that is under the funding report.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Oh no, no, no. Oh right. Maybe I should ask that? It’s not about funding.

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
It is under the funding report. I’m afraid, sorry.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
OK, I’ll hold back on that. I’ll hold back on that question but I won’t forget.

Right, my next two questions are for David. You just said that you were involved when Lyndale sort of moved from Clatterbridge. How big’s the area, the size around Lyndale School’s on at the moment?

DAVID ARMSTRONG
I can honestly say Councillor Fraser that I don’t know the answer because I’ve deliberately because I don’t want it to confuse the debate and become a distraction, we have done no action whatsoever looking at the Lyndale site.

I said to Pat this evening after the parents spoke at the last meeting, I would very much like to have visited the school and have a look around, so I did talk to Pat but also to remind myself about the school as I was a mainstream teacher.

I deliberately haven’t done that because if I go to the school particularly with my current monitoring responsibilities everyone will think I’ve come to look at the building or look at the site or look at the land. I know the area that the site occupies but genuinely myself and no one else in my team that work with me would have come to look at the site. So I couldn’t actually quote that figure tonight.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Well if you’ve got, this leads me on to another point, without being difficult surely the Council has maps that you could look at? And also to see the size of the land? And also if the numbers at Lyndale are going down why are you extending Elleray Park?

(applause)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
When my children went to school and I could choose the school, if there weren’t enough places there tough, you had to go to another school. Obviously it’s slightly different with special needs but I don’t understand why you’re not sending, suggesting that children go to Lyndale (making the most of the capacity)? Also I’d be interested if you looked at the map, how much money you would expect to get if you sold that land?

(applause)

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
OK, I’ll allow the officers to reply to that and then is that your questions finished?

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Sorry no, I’ve got one more.

DAVID ARMSTRONG
Thank you Chair, yeah but clearly I could look at maps Councillor Fraser. As far as I’m concerned it would be totally irrelevant to the discussion here, which is about whether we should consult on whether to close the school.

I tried to explain, that I am known as the asset person in the Council and currently I have all the baggage and tags that go with that. There has been no work done on looking to dispose of the site.

I think it is useful, very useful that you raised that point because I would just like to take you briefly through the process because if I set that out now then I think it should clear it away for future debate.

The work to Elleray Park stems from a Cabinet report from 2009, where we were asked to go away and bring forward plans to build two new schools, one at Stanley and one at Elleray Park linked to primary school sites.

Clearly we’ve just completed the Stanley one, located it next to Pensby and that was done through funding claiming for that purpose. Because of the national circumstances the funding was withdrawn in July 2010. There’s no prospect realistically of funding on that scale now.

We have £21.5 million worth of funding capital in 2010/11. Next year we’ll have £4.1 million so we know we’re facing a different landscape. So what we want to do is go back and invest in the schools that we know now that we’ll not be rebuilding and that’s where that deal comes from, it has its origins there.

In terms of bidding for the money, we’ve had that, we’ve been looking for that for a while. Yes when we bid internally for the money against our colleagues we did also make a reference to the fact that should a decision be taken to close Lyndale clearly we will need places at other schools but the Elleray Park building work is not dependent on any decision you make about Lyndale. The scheme at Elleray Park will be done for suitability reasons and flexibility reasons whatever the decision about Lyndale. So it is not dependant in any shape or form on a proposition about Lyndale.

It actually begins to sort out things again that I did in the mid 1990s, as a short-term measure. I converted the former caretaker’s house to teaching accommodation. I never intended that it would last the length of time that it did. The scheme deals with that issue.

It moves the kitchen from the back of the school to the front which makes sense in terms of deliveries, so it does deal with issues with the school that exist. In all schools we try and respond to parental choice. We provide extra accommodation where we can when people are clearly wanting to go to that school. That’s national policy and it’s something we’ve tried to do.

In terms of the site, the idea that we can somehow just sell the site and pocket the money is actually a bit, well it’s very far fetched. If the decision was taken to close Lyndale there’d be a stepped process. For me, if a decision was taken to close the school, that doesn’t automatically mean that it would mean there would be no education on the site.

The school could convert to a free school, it could convert to an academy. It could be a shared, split site school with another school and the site would carry on being used much as it is now.

If that didn’t happen, I’d want to look to see what other purposes we could put to it for children because it’s had investment as I say it had an investment in 1999 a substantial one. It’s one of only four schools we’ve got with pools and you’d want to explore other possibilities.

It has a youth hub and a youth club on the corner of the site so there’d be lots of other possibilities. If it came to the fact there was no school and no other use for it, we have to then apply to the Secretary of State. We have to get his permission to dispose of the site.

We have to do it under two pieces of legislation, one is section 77 of the School Standards and Framework Act which covers the playing fields and the playing field is not just a pitch it’s any outside space and we have to do it under section 1 of the Academies Act for the rest of the site and the Secretary of State’s words are that “a presumption is against you” on this issue. So even if we went through all those processes and the Secretary of State did give permission to dispose of the site it could then be disposed of but that condition would be based on us having specific schemes where the funding would have to be reinvested in other schools.

So I think it’s useful to set all that out to show, it is a process we’ve gone through. We’ve relocated schools to school sites when schools have closed. We have disposed of sites but the money goes reinvested back into schools.

So there’s absolutely no motive on me and anybody else to address this as a capital or an asset issue. That comes at the end and I hope by going through that and it’s a legal process, it’s a national process that shows that really the debate needs to be had about the needs of the children not about the site.

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
Go on, you’ve got one more question Leah.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
No, you said I could have four, no, but we’ve got plenty of time! But errm right,

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
No sorry, I’ll let you put the question if you like.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Thank you Chair. My next question is, the email that Rochelle Smith mentioned, which I’m sure you were waiting for me to ask or somebody to ask that. From Paul Ashton “no plans for closure” sent in April 2012. What happened between April 2012 to a couple of months ago last year? That seems quite a change of policy, can you explain that?

DAVID ARMSTRONG
I think we’d like to. The letter came in when I was covering the Director of Childrens Services post, which we… Julia agreed upon to. So I was wearing two hats when that letter came in. I was covering the Director’s post but I was also still working with Andrew doing the finances. The letter was read in that context.

I asked Paul Ashcroft to reply to the letter because he was the specialist special, he was the senior inspector for special education, but I also had a discussion with him because if I sit there wearing the hat doing the thing with Andrew the very last thing we would want is for any member of our team, to be suggesting that children shouldn’t go to the school. It’s the very last thing we would want, it would make an already difficult situation even worse.

He went away, he replied to the letter, he replied to the parent and I also asked him to research whether he could come across any evidence of where our staff were directing children away from the school and that’s the most current and it’s interesting, it’s been really good to listen to what’s been said tonight because the references to me appear to have been mainly, if not exclusively to staff who work for another organisation and I think that’s an issue that Julia will research in her own way.

The situation is as I described at the very beginning, the national framework has now embedded itself in. Andrew and I are looking to the future landscape, we can see more hurdles that we’ll have to go through, other agencies will have to be involved in saying yes or no to the current arrangement we have with funding empty places, we see a clear direction now in special which is to move towards paying for the pupil rather than the place so it’s because, unbeknownst to us at the beginning of this, it’s that national context and also the numbers haven’t added, the numbers have stayed broadly stable and that clearly makes the problem difficult.

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
OK, next I’m going to deal with Paul, Pat and Adam in that order.

COUNCILLOR PAUL DOUGHTY
I am at an advantage actually over some of the parents and members of the audience because I know you as individuals and I know as individuals how passionate you are about children and your responsibilities towards them and our parents and members of the audience here don’t know that and they don’t have the advantage that myself and some of the other councillors have.

I think one of the problems we’ve got is the language that’s been used in some of the communication, perhaps in the newspapers and their responsibility for that. Also perhaps the, we referred to you that know some of the perhaps careless language of NHS staff perhaps and so we have a challenge really as a local authority as to how we can reverse that negative view that parents have so the question is given some of the comments that have been made to us where parents have a lack of confidence in the process and the consultation is there anything else that you feel that as officers we can do to try and restore confidence in the consultation process that haven’t already been presented tonight?

JULIA HASSALL
OK Chair, if I start the answer to that. One of the things that we’re deeply committed to doing should the decision be to proceed with the consultation is to talk with parents and each child, talk with the school and really make sure we’ve got as up to date assessment of the needs of each individual child at Lyndale School.

So that as we go forward, we are very genuinely looking at options in the knowledge of each individual child so that when we apply what’s called the SEN Improvement Test, we’re doing it based on our understanding of what each individual child needs and looking at how their needs can and if they can be met in a different setting.

So it’s making sure amidst what you say Councillor, a lot of the language that’s been used that we pull it back to first principle and say this is about getting it right for some exceptionally vulnerable children and how to care deeply about their children and we’ll need to be absolutely reassured whether the child is going to school they have staff in that school who can absolutely respond to their children’s needs in a very caring appropriate way and that is the very heart of what we must do as we take this forward.

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
OK, Pat and then Adam and then Leah and that… and I do want to spread it round the committee, all ok?

COUNCILLOR PATRICIA GLASMAN
I’ll try and keep my questions to the question of debating whether we should have a call in on, oh a consultation. One of the parent witnesses Julia has said earlier that she had or that parents had forwarded questions to you and not received replies. My question to you is, have you been waiting to reply to these queries on the fact that the parents have raised objections to the proposed current consultation? I’ve got one more question.

JULIA HASSALL
Thank you Councillor, I’m glad you asked me that question. I met with staff at the school and with parents on the 19th of December. It was the soonest date we could arrange after I met with the governing body at Lyndale School and I brought with me a colleague who took very detailed notes at the meeting.

Quite soon after Christmas, there were very detailed questions and did need to canvass a number of views to get accurate responses and Mrs Dawn Hughes who was a parent who spoke at the Cabinet meeting, I think Dawn is here this evening, on the 16th January very helpfully wrote to me saying this is a summary of the questions we asked and here are some additional questions and she did that under the freedom of information process and what I did I was a little delayed, but I did respond to Mrs Hughes within the freedom of information timescale which is about three weeks or so ago.

I’m probably mistaken because I understood that those questions and responses would be circulated to other parents. If that’s not happened I will do that tomorrow.

(heckling) The answers given they weren’t answers.

COUNCILLOR PATRICIA GLASMAN
One other question Chair.

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
OK.

COUNCILLOR PATRICIA GLASMAN
Another witness referred to the fact that the closure of Lyndale School has been brought to their attention by members of staff from another organisation. Have you had any contact yourself with the NHS about Lyndale School and the staff that were mentioned?

JULIA HASSALL
Councillor Glasman, I’ve been slightly chary about going very broad on consultation at this point, but I I I have indirectly made contact with Doctor Steiger but I will want to if the consultation proceeds, certainly meet with a group of community pediatricians to elicit their views and meet with other health professionals who are involved and I know that there are some who are actually directly working within the Lyndale School and I want to very much take soundings from them and from any other professional who’s directly involved.

COUNCILLOR PATRICIA GLASMAN
You want to emphasise to them that (inaudible)

COUNCILLOR STEVE FOULKES
OK, Adam.

If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.


Responses

  1. […] Continues at What did officers say about Lyndale School in reply to “how much money you would expect to get if …. […]

  2. […] School call in? “we had a problem the rules mattered more than the children”, followed by What did officers say about Lyndale School in reply to “how much money you would expect to get if …. During the consultation period I hope to have the time to type up some more transcripts of the […]

  3. […] Armstrong stated at a public meeting on the 27th February 2014 “I can honestly say Councillor Fraser that I don’t know the answer because I’ve […]


Categories