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Posted by: John Brace | 13th August 2014

How was the history of the Lyndale School closure consultation rewritten by Wirral Council?

How was the history of the Lyndale School closure consultation rewritten by Wirral Council?

Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014

Phil Ward who chaired the consultation (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014

A while ago, well nearly two months ago I was at the last of the six consultation meetings about Lyndale School. Nobody could really fathom out then why the officers were keeping the notes of these meetings “a secret”. In fact, had it not been for the Freedom of Information Act request of the Wallasey Conservatives I doubt they wouldn’t have been published for a further few weeks (and let’s face it they can use “future publication” as a reason to turn down FOI requests).

The officer chairing that meeting, Phil Ward was adamant in that meeting that the notes were for councillors on the Cabinet. Previously on this blog I’ve written up a transcript of the first hour or so of that meeting. Yesterday I compared the transcript of the meeting to the notes that officers wanted to use to tell Cabinet Members about the meeting.

One of the councillors in Eastham (where Lyndale School is) (who was present at the meeting) is Cllr Chris Carubia. He has written several books for example, The Raven Flies which is described as “finding out the location of his father, Sigurd and his crew, join King Olaf of Norway’s invasion to the land of the Moor’s, encounter a strange new culture and battle a savage new enemy”. I’ve never read any of his books (this isn’t really a blog for book reviews) but this is to make a point. The reason I mention this obscure fact is that his books would be put in a library under the “fiction” section. He used his imagination to come up with them. They’re made up.

This is probably where the notes (which let’s face it officers were going to use to persuade Cabinet to make the decision they wanted) should be as they are veering towards a fictional account of that meeting. Now the alternative viewpoint is, oh don’t be so cruel John, officers are doing their best under difficult circumstances. Yes, they are, but we’ve seen this subtle rewriting of history recently before at the Improvement Board where Wirral Council asked for questions from the public, rewrote their questions and handed out the “approved” version of history to those at the meeting hoping nobody would “spot the difference”.

So what is the proof I have of this? Well yesterday (and believe me it took some time to do as it was a two-hour meeting) I compared the notes to the transcript of what was said by whom. I am only about halfway through the meeting. It is only then when you can compare and contrast the two versions that you see what edits were made, what was left out and how things were changed. After all this is consultation, Wirral-style where we ask for your contributions but then officers meddle afterwards with them.

Call me biased (because let’s face it on Lyndale I am and it’s an editorial line we all agree on here but this is a serious point about how consultations are done and how decision-making happens). Is this the way consultations should be done? If the information politicians take into account when making important decisions has been altered in between being gathered and being put before politicians by officer/s is this honest? Does the way the notes were presented originally give anybody reading them the impression that the meeting was vastly different to how it happened and the misleading impression (as apart from a brief list of some present) as no names are used so that officer’s views can look like people responding to the consultation?

Below this is just the first half of the meeting compared to the notes. Things I have added are I hope highlighted in green. There are aspects of the notes that are broadly similar to what happened and I’ve left them in unedited. The aspects of the notes that seem to be at odds with what was said, have got a line through and are replaced with a direct quote of what was actually said. There are sections which were originally blank in the notes and some of the extra detail has been added.

This is so you can compare the “Wirral Council version” to my version of what happened based on the transcript. I hope that is clear. Most of the changes happen to the “key points” column. As names aren’t in the original version, this could’ve originally given the misleading impression that “key points” were made by the public. However this is just officers’ (and the Cabinet Member’s) viewpoints. It would take a long time to transcribe the rest of the meeting and do the same with the last few pages of the notes. If I have the time I will though. You can listen to the whole consultation meeting at Acre Lane about Lyndale from start to finish if you wish. Please leave a comment on this as (as has been mentioned many times by politicians and others before) getting consultation right is key to the decision making process at Wirral Council.

Annotations are added in red.

Public Consultation Meeting re The Lyndale School held at Acre Lane

16th June 2014: 5.30pm to 7.30pm

In Attendance:

Julia Hassall: Director of Children’s Services, Phil Ward Senior Manager SEN, Councillor Tony Smith: Lead Member for Children and Family Services (arrived late not present from start), David Armstrong: Assistant Chief Executive, Andrew Roberts: Senior Manager School Funding and Resources.

Attendees 34.

Questions/Comments                                                      Key points

Can we have a copy of the notes which you have been taking throughout the 6 consultation meetings

Could you then have key bullet points, or pick

up the themes and can we see them.

These are high level summary notes and not minutes and we will be using them to inform Cabinet. They are to capture your views

Phil Ward: “They’re not for circulation.”

They will be made public when our report goes

to Cabinet

I have been to 100 companies so far and have asked them what they think of the closure of Lyndale and they are 100% against it.

You are public servants and you should be serving the needs of people not yourself

Thank you for your comments

Phil Ward: “Is that something you’d like to submit to us?”

The consultation document is not worth the

paper it is written on

Phil Ward: “point taken”

When the children’s assessments are done

will they be used to cost need. Will you look at the banding

The assessment is about capturing the most up to date information of a child. This will be done on an individual basis

Phil Ward “then we had captured the up to date information that we retain on the children so that we could begin on an individual family basis”

The banding system is new and it was agreed by the Schools Forum.

There will be review after the first year. DA/AR will feed this information you are raising back to the Forum

David Armstrong “Just on the banding system, the banding system where we have five bands because of the special schools budget.  Clearly, it’s new so it’s only been in place for a short while and I mentioned the Schools Forum before.” … He referred to the Schools Forum and how questions about the banding feed into the Schools Forum.

 

Ed – 1st update: Everything below this has gone a bit wrong (table wise) below this point. I’m working on fixing it! 2nd update: Fixed (11:36 13/8/14) 3rd update 3:55 pm removed duplicate cell in column 1 (above)

Councillor Dave Mitchell:

Will the petition from
5 years ago also be presented to Cabinet?

“Will that include the decisions made by Council which were fully supported by all parties?”

All 3 parties fully supported it and decided not to close Lyndale

“I think that’s a very important issue, it should actually be highlighted. It was a notice of motion to Council and it was fully supported by the local authority at that time.”

 

David Armstrong: No, it would just include references to previous reports.

Julia Hassall: This is a new consultation.

“We did make clear reference to that to my recollection at the call in.”

Lyndale school is a fabulous resource inside
the school as well as outside. We are able to take our children out so that they can enjoy the trees, the garden etc. The idea of
squashing us into another school is not conducive to provide a high level of care and education

Phil Ward: “Thank you for that point.”

Is it 5 or 10 places in Stanley School, it is
just a play on words

The new building was built to accommodate a higher number of pupils.

The number of extra places will depend on the needs of the children

David Armstrong: “The school’s brand new and what we learnt when the Lyndale School was built was looking at primary schools. We built them absolutely tight on the existing campus. We found that the schools became more popular and also you’re building something for fifty or sixty years. We’re building something for fifty or sixty years, so we’re building to a generous standard and the new style that was built to a generous standard. The school, the school that we’re building had a capacity of ninety pupils. The new building is capable of taking a hundred and ten and the reason for that is that we’ll be building to the maximum standards in place, we’re building some spare capacity because we’re investing several million pounds for the next couple of years.” 

Are there any PMLD children at Stanley School at the present time?

No, but there are some children with PMLD at Elleray Park

David Armstrong: “The school was built to take the full range of PMLD.”

I have visited Stanley School and I would be petrified to leave my child there.
I think it would be a massive risk as I don’t
think my child will be safe
“would
be absolutely petrified to leave Scott there. I’m absolutely petrified.”

 

Both Head Teachers are confident that they can safely integrate your children into their school. Across the country there are many
schools who do this successfully

Phil Ward thanked her for her point.

 

Has anyone spoken to Paediatricians or
Specialist Health Visitors about this consultation

Phil Ward: “Sorry I can’t speak for paediatricians, but surely the point… No they have not, no is the answer to that.”

 

What is going to happen if there are growing
numbers with children with CLD if you transfer our children into Elleray and Stanley

This is something which we have to manage all the time. We need to keep
up with the changes in SEN.

Phil Ward said the question had come up a number of times and the answer was that Wirral Council has a responsibility on specialist provision. When there was evidence that the numbers were growing in any particular category then they would start discussions with schools to plan places.

 

In your special arrangements to provide an up
to date assessment of each child you need to take into account that some of the children don’t have language etc and the
environment is as important as well as relationships, friends, as well as a sense of place and security. They need a safe environment and this could be difficult if you mix them with children who have ASC
ASD (autistic spectrum disorders)

We have asked our Principal Educational Psychologist to ensure that we have an up to date picture of each child and their needs. She understands each child and if we know the needs of each child, this will help to drive our future provision

Julia Hassall “This is why we’ve got our principal educational psychologist pulling together a group of meetings with the key
staff involved with each child, the parents, any health professionals to really understand each individual child but also how the children interacty with each other.”

What about Councillor Chris Carubia: However nobody had mentioned Foxfield School before?
That was a great provision why have you not put this forward as an option

This is a secondary school; children come into this school at aged 11. One of the options mentioned in the consultation document is a 2 to 19 provision. We are looking at Foxfield School as an option as parents have asked us to.

Also it is important to remember that if we close Lyndale we will have a discussion about each child and parents can state their preference for any school

How come at Stanley only 90% is funded,
will this mean that the other 10% will not be funded and have to
be found our of their resources

She said that there were ten children at the school [Stanley] that were not funded and would this be sorted out if the Lyndale School children went to Stanley School?

Annually there is a census for each
school. Numbers are reviewed and amended taking this into
account.

Andrew Roberts replied, “In terms of places at special schools, those decisions are taken annually. So the schools take it at a point in time, the decision taken in respect of Stanley was taken last November as a census. Clearly we need to be reviewing, as do the number of places at other special schools.”

We gained public support when we fund raised £80,000 for the sensory garden,
if you close what will happen to it and how will you give the money back to the general
public who had donated it?

This
was their hard work and you are going to knock down Lyndale!

There is an amphitheatre; do you know who built it?

It was the YTS lads from Wirral Action

Phil Ward: “We don’t know”
David Armstrong: “there’s no decision been taken to determine it”….

In other schools we have always made sure that if we were about to
close and transfer the children, we relocate
any other equipment where possible
. “anything that was in memory of a particular pupil we’ve dealt with that first and then we’ve gone on from that” We will look to relocate the sensory garden

David Armstrong: “I don’t know.”

David Armstrong: “I can’t know every detail.”

No

Ian Lewis

4 years ago officers put forward a
proposal to close Kingsway Primary
School because it was not financially viable and this was voted against and this school is still here. So what is to say 4 years on Lyndale will not be the same and continuing to deliver high quality care and education.

“If in four years time that’s [Lyndale] still here, who’s to say it won’t be viable?”

Kingsway remains a small school which limits its budget income and there is
an outstanding Council resolution to carry out a review.

David Armstrong “In Kingsway, we haven’t gone back, but at some point there’s a Council resolution to go back and revisit Kingsway.”

 

Elleray and Stanley school do not
always provide 1 to 1 support or even 2 – 1 support for their children so if you relocate Lyndale will that not effect
their financial viability

The Head Teachers of both schools are
confident that they will be able to manage integration of the children from Lyndale.

Ian Lewis

5 years ago at a full council meeting
all 3 parties agreed to keep Lyndale open. Therefore the message is keep it open

Julia Hassall The
difficulty as mentioned is that there is a change to the funding formula and we have been funding empty spaces in this school. You
have been really clear during these consultations that what you want is wherever your children go to school that it needs to
replicate the provision at Lyndale

“No, no the significant difference Ian now to five years ago, is the government have changed the funding formula. So Lyndale is
currently funded as if there were actually forty children at that school and over the last seven years, the numbers have gone down. It’s been about fifty odd percent occupancy in the school and following the exact funding formula, it will mean that as some point, the £10,000 per a child will have to be applied and that will mean £230,000 for twenty-three children as opposed to £400,000 because there aren’t the children in the places.”

I have an issue in relation to the banding of our children. I accept that they all have different needs but my worry is that my child who is on band 4 is getting £8,000 less than others on a band 5 but what will happen at Stanley School?
what band are they because how much money are they going to have taken off them?

We do not think that this will work as my son needs 1 to 1 care as although my son can feed himself he also needs to be fed as well.

Andrew Roberts: The banding is a new system and only came into being on 1st April 2014.

David Armstrong The question about whether your child is on the right band needs to be fed in to their annual review. You can also take this up with the Principal Educational Psychologist.

Julia Hassall said, “Can I just add one other bit, I think it’s important to feed that in through the psychologist when the meetings are taking place as well.”

If the banding was changed would that keep the school open?

David Armstrong:

In relation to the National Funding, Local
Authorities have the ability to say what system they are going to use and Wirral chose to do a banding system which has no flexibility.

“decided to do away with this system, which you know because it was easier,
but it really doesn’t have much flexibility or address the actual needs of the children involved.”

The difficulty is that by the time you go to the Schools Forum to change this system, Lyndale will be closed

(no response given)

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Responses

  1. Rewriting history is wha=t Orwell wrote about in 1984. Rewriting history is what idealogues do to push forward their own ideas and all totalitarian regimes indulge in the same.

    I have raised this per my issues specifically with made up statistices submitted my officers to the Regeneration committee to SATISFY THEM THAT WIRRALBIZ WAS AN OUTSTANDINGLY SUCCESSFUL PROJECT.!!!!!

    The results of that series of lies is obvious.

    Again a reading of David Garry’s reports would be markedly different from the transcripts of interviews he had with myself and the evidence submitted to him . He was rewriting history to suit his mates and this practice was already clearly well developed even in September 2012.

    THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT POINT INDEED.

    • As you point out, it’s how history is rewritten that distorts things, everyone has a bias, you, me, everybody. Yes in a consultation different people will receollect the same meeting differently.

      But I think this harks back to the filming issue too. Without filming of meetings, they can control the minutes. They can put out their version of what happened to the press. However if there’s an independent record of what happened, if they distort or twist things too far, then they make themselves look foolish.

      I suppose this falls under the category of “workplace culture”. However when will Wirral Council mend its ways and at least give the appearance of trying to improve? Or has it gone beyond that?

      Yes I know I’m critical and I bet sometimes people wish my blog was about the great things Wirral Council does. Maybe I am too robust in my criticism but like yourself with BIG/ISUS it’s annoying!

  2. At Harvard university in the early 18th century a divine was prosecuted for rhetoric and it would be a good thing to make a points system as with driving such that any opinion former can be fined penalty points for producing unsubstantiated opinion. For example we could complain to a magistrate that the minutes of the Peer Improvement meeting of November 2013 were deliberately misleading and the highest officer who sanctioned their publication be fined 3 points. Ultimately 10 points would lead to a disciplinary hearing and a first warning.

    A dream but if only and then we would not be subjected to assertions of the fastest improving council, open and transparent and the rest of the tosh.

    Oh and officials who refuse FOI’s could be given a series of formulaic answers in addition to s30 etc such as ” I am instructed by a person of two ranks seniority to refuse” or “I am the second {or third) officer who has looked at this FOI before its ultimate refusal”.

    • Well generally academia in this country is left to its own devices and wheeled out for quotes to the press. I was once branded an academic at university and sometimes I forget I’m not there anymore!

      However, generally it is the committee that approves the minutes, in the case of the Improvement Board it no longer exists! Power loves a vacuum.

      As to FOIs, I think it’s not so much refusal, but the horrendous way Wirral Council keeps records. They can use their own chaos to say it’ll take over 18.5 hours!

      As to improvements and intervention, well central government has censured them (and forced their hand) over filming. Oh and council newspapers, oh and that plan to put Council Tax up by 2% (now requires a referendum). In fact if you look at a lot of it, if things were running properly at Wirral Council about 75-80 percent of stuff they do would be constrained by legislation and central govt policy.

      Sad really for councillors to realise they have very little powers compared to MPs (although maybe that’s why the former often want to become the latter).

      Here are my creative FOI refusals.

      Thank you for your FOI request about X. We apologise for taking so long to answer you. Unfortunately we had a flood in our records archive and the specific record/s were destroyed. Sadly when we checked our electronic archive it told us your record was on floor 6, shelf 7A. Our insurance company has compensated us for the loss, but we understand how priceless a response to your FOI request would’ve been and we hope that you are as deeply upset as we are at not being able to give you a full and complete answer to what you wanted.

      # Reason 2

      At some point in the future, we predict there will be a full moon and Mars will be rising in the West on a hazy evening the planets will align and we will be publishing this information. We have conducted a public interest test and our department has decided “it’s all in the stars” and “if we’re going to do it in the future why do it twice?”

      Reason 3
      The person dealing with your request is on holiday/made redundant/on sick leave/swallowed a goldfish * delete as applicable. Due to these unforseen circumstances we need more time to write an unfathomable reason as to why we can’t give you the information.

      Reason 4
      Release of this information would be highly embarrassing and politically sensitive. Are you taking the mickey when you made this request or do you think we’re stupid? Moan to ICO all you like but by the time you get a reply I’ll be in a different job, mu ha ha!

      Reason 5
      We would love to give it to you but our boss won’t let you. His boss is cool with it, but our boss well… do you know what it’s like to work here and what we put up with? *cries*

      Reason 6
      We can think of no reason to refuse but we don’t want you to have it. We’ll just pick an exemption at random and try and make it fit. We’re sure an internal review will disagree with us, but they’ll just pick a different exemption instead.

  3. John you out-Herod, Herod himself

    • A curious comment, care to explain? I hope this doesn’t mean I’ve now got to flee to Egypt! 😉

  4. A quotation from Hamlet. He is talking of the actors who can out act each other.

    Twas a compliment. I provide one argument and you respond with many more than mine. It might signify you is more clever than I is

    • Sorry my Shakespeare is rusty, I read it as a biblical reference! Been “one of those days” . As to actors that outact each other… I have qualifications in that too. 🙂

      I’m too argumentative for my own good sometimes… I have been spending perhaps too long today mulling over things.. I doubt I’m cleverer than you are Nigel, just better informed on some subjects. Maybe we should have a game of chess someday?

  5. I think a series of three games would be fairer. How you will find the time in between blogs I know not unless you sleep like Mrs Thatcher.

    Were that a sertious offer I accept.

    • It’s a serious offer. There’s plenty of time I’m not writing this blog. I probably get more sleep than she did. 😀 However I share a birthday with her… are we going to play through these comments? If so, do you want to be white or black?

  6. On Fritz if you have it else it will have to be at houses

    • No I don’t have Fritz. How about correspondence chess here? I’ll be white and start with:

      1. e4 (because I’m traditional like that)

    • Your move, Nigel. 🙂


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