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Posted by: John Brace | 1st October 2014

5 questions answered about the Lyndale School closure plans

5 questions answered about the Lyndale School closure plans

                                              

The Wirral Globe has just arrived through my door and in it is a letter from a Keith Crowden of Upton titled “Any Answers?” although in the online version its “Any answers on Lyndale?” .

Keith Crowden of Upton asks:

1) How many pupils go to the school and how many teachers and other staff are there at present?

Wirral Council state that there are now 21 pupils on the roll at Lyndale School (as of yesterday 30th September 2014). However it is noted that a number of these will reach secondary school age next year and will not be directly affected by the proposed closure in January 2016.

Reference: section 8.1 of this letter from Surjit Tour published yesterday.

According to the Lyndale School website there are 19 teaching assistants and 3 teachers at the school. However this information might be out of date. It is possible there are other staff too that are not listed on its website. However only The Lyndale School could answer the actual current number about how many teachers and other staff are now employed on this particular day as this number fluctuates. My own guess is that the total number of staff is somewhere between twenty-two and thirty-five (I am assuming you are referring in your question to paid staff and not volunteers).

2) How many different schools are likely to be used for the transfer of the children if the school is closed and would the attention they receive now be diminished in another environment?

Stanley School and Elleray Park have already been named as alternative schools so at least two, however some parents have said they will not send their children to either of those schools if Lyndale School closes. So the number of different schools if it was closed that the children at Lyndale School would go to is likely to be a number between three and six. In theory it could be as high as twelve, but that’s highly unlikely.

In answer to the second part of your question, if the school was closed and the pupils were transferred to either Elleray Park or Stanley School, then Wirral Council plans to spend less money on a per pupil basis than Lyndale currently receives. Currently Lyndale School receives on average ~£33,000 per pupil, this would drop to between ~£17,000 per a pupil to ~£26,000 per a pupil depending on which one of five new bands that particular former Lyndale School pupil is assessed in based partly on their EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan).

However if Lyndale School shut and the former Lyndale pupil/s was transferred to an independent special school, the amount received per a pupil would be uncapped. If the former Lyndale School pupil went to a special school outside of Wirral (bear in mind Lyndale School is in Eastham very close to the edge of Wirral so it is a possibility parent/s would choose placements outside of Wirral) the amount would also be uncapped based on the current policy.

This is because Wirral Council’s current policy is to not have a cap on funding for independent special or out of borough special placements, but they intend to introduce a cap for special pupils in schools on the Wirral Borough from next year assuming they get agreement to this from the various decision-making bodies.

This reduction in funding will probably lead both to less staff time available per a child and/or a reduction in other costs that the school has. That is the view of the parents, some councillors, staff and other people replying to the consultation. However Wirral Council takes a different view on this point.

I do not think it is realistic to state that education would remain the same as they receive at Lyndale School although Wirral Council would disagree with me on that point.

3) Would all children find places nearer or further away from home as at present and would transport be provided for them to go and come back from school each day?

The first part of that answer is impossible to answer until a final decision over closure is made and a parental choice is made about alternative schools. However I remember one parent stating that they moved house so that they could be nearer to Lyndale School, therefore in some cases the places would be further away from their home.

SEN Transport can be provided for pupils to go and come back from school, however some parents choose to take their children to school themselves. If your question is would SEN Transport be provided at the new schools as a choice, then the answer if yes if it was requested. However SEN Transport is not compulsory and results in a cost to Wirral Council.

4) What would happen to the present teachers and other staff if the school was closed?

They would lose their jobs, that is to say they would be made redundant as the school had closed. It would then be down to the individual members of staff to apply for jobs elsewhere if they so wished to do so at that stage.

It is to be noted that Wirral Council made an error in the consultation document in relation to what would happen to the staff if the Lyndale School closed.

Despite how the unimplemented Cabinet resolution of 4th September 2014 is phrased, no jobs are guaranteed. Any decision over employing former Lyndale staff elsewhere would be up to that school’s governing body, the usual legal processes such as filling out application forms, criminal record background checks, interviews etc and the former Lyndale staff would be in a competitive process with other applicants for any new jobs created at other schools.

Due to the funding reduction, even if all the former Lyndale School staff applied for jobs at the places where the former Lyndale School pupils had been moved to, the funding reductions would mean that there would be a reduction in posts compared to current staffing levels at Lyndale School.

5) Would the real saving come from the sale of the Lyndale premises and site?

The land and buildings are valued at £2.7 million in February 2013 by Wirral Council. However it could not be sold unless:

(a) it was declared surplus to requirements (a decision that would have to be made by Wirral Council)
(b) a buyer was found
(c) there are other decisions that would have to be made by bodies outside Wirral Council in relation to the land and buildings before a sale could proceed as it is a school. It is unknown whether such bodies would agree to it or not. For example multiple approvals would be needed from the government in relation to the land and buildings before any changes such as a sale or change of use were made.
(d) in order to change its use planning permission would be required (a decision that would have to be made by Wirral Council)

It is to be noted at this stage that the Land Registry entry for Lyndale School refers to a conveyance agreement (if memory serves correct 1952) between Cheshire County Council, a limited company and an individual. I note that prior to the creation of Wirral Council in 1974, this piece of land was in the Cheshire County Council area. Although Cheshire County Council was abolished in 2009, in 2009 its functions were transferred to Cheshire West and Chester and Cheshire East.

I do not currently have access to a copy of this document, which is lodged with Land Registry, Birkenhead. Due to public service cutbacks I have to wait for an appointment with Land Registry in order to view and request a copy of it although either Chester West and Chester or Cheshire East should have a copy when the Cheshire County Council records were transferred.

I have given as full an answer as I can to the above questions, considering that some of the detail is either not known to me, would take too long to collate or would result in me having to make enquiries of others.

There will be a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Coordinating Committee on 2nd October 2014 starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall to discuss the recent Cabinet decision and decide what to do next.

At the moment implementation of the decision has been put on hold pending the outcome of that meeting.

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