Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

Labour councillors on Wirral Council’s Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to spend £200,000 to demolish Lyndale School

                                       

Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan
Cabinet 17th December 2014 vote on Lyndale School closure L to R Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Education), Cllr George Davies, Cllr Ann McLachlan

As reported around a fortnight ago on this blog Wirral Council’s Cabinet meets next Monday morning to make another decision about Lyndale School.

Cabinet previously decided to close Lyndale School in Eastham at the end of August 2016. On Monday councillors on the Cabinet will be deciding whether to declare it surplus to requirements, to ask the government for permission to sell off the playing fields (with a further six-week consultation expected on this), demolish the school building and to sell off the site.

Demolishing the buildings will cost an estimated £200,000 and the Cabinet report recommends doing this before a consultation on selling off the playing fields.

The rationale for demolition is that an empty building could attract vandalism.

Parents of disabled children at Lyndale School campaigned to try to persuade the Labour councillors on Wirral Council to change their mind and keep the Lyndale School open. Although councillors from opposition parties agreed with the parents that the school should remain open, Labour councillors consistently voted to close the Lyndale School school.

The site of the former Lyndale School is expected to be sold for housing.

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How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

How did Councillor Tony Smith answer 2 questions about the Cabinet decision on closure of Lyndale School?

                                            

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Council (Wirral Council) 15th December 2014

Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School
Council 15th December 2014 Agenda item 4 Public Question Time John Brace asks a question of Cllr Tony Smith on Lyndale School

In light of the fact that Wirral Council’s Cabinet meets tonight to make a decision about Lyndale School (amongst other matters), I thought this transcript of the public question time that includes two questions I asked Cllr Tony Smith about the upcoming decision on Lyndale School at the public meeting of Council on Monday 15th December might be of interest to some people. It starts at 31:46 in the video above.

The first question is a written question from Mr John Brace to Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) submitted on the 4th December 2014. The second is one Cllr Tony Smith doesn’t get advance warning of until he heard it on Monday evening.

JOHN BRACE: Wirral Council recently had a four-week consultation on the closure of the Lyndale School in Eastham and there will be a special Cabinet meeting later this month on the 17th December 2014.

Can you please answer:

(a) how many responses were received by Wirral Council to the latest four-week consultation on closure of the Lyndale School,
(b) whether the text of the responses to the latest four-week consultation will be published in full (rather than a summary in a Cabinet report) and if so when,
(c) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read all the written consultation responses to the four week consultation on closure prior to making their decision on the 17th December 2014

and

(d) whether all Cabinet Members making a decision on the 17th December 2014 will in advance of making a decision at the meeting of the 17th December 2014 have read the statutory guidance for decision makers on this matter issued earlier this year by the government which is available online?

Thank you.

CLLR TONY SMITH: Thank you Mr. Brace, thank you Mr Brace.

Errm, right on question a, errm in accordance with statutory guidance there was a four-week consultation period and during that time any person could make comments or objections to the proposal to close the school, to close the school and there are twenty-one representations received.

Six from the Lyndale School, one from Stanley School and fourteen others who were mainly Members, twenty were received by email and one letter was received.

So question b, errm an acknowledgement has been given to all those who made representations. The whole set of redacted copies of the representations has been provided as appendix 4 to the Cabinet report and a full set of unredacted copies has been provided to members of the Cabinet prior to their meeting on the 17th December to inform the decision-making. The unredacted copies have been sent to Cabinet Members on a disc.

Err question c, all, as I said earlier, every Member of the Cabinet have received a disc, which contains copies of the representations, that are unredacted and which will be read prior to their meeting on the 17th December and the question d, yes is the answer.

The full guidance produced by the Department for Education, in December, or the Department for Education in 2014 called School Organisation for Maintained Schools: Guidance for proposals and decision makers has been provided at appendix 3 of the Cabinet report. The Cabinet, as the decision-maker, will have regard to the factors it will need to take into account and this is outlined in paragraph 4 onwards in the Cabinet report.

JOHN BRACE: Thank you.

MAYOR OF WIRRAL: OK, err we normally ask if you if you want a supplementary question? Have you got one? OK?

JOHN BRACE: Thank you Councillor Tony Smith for answering my first question. I do have a supplementary.

Earlier this year, a further decision about Lyndale School was made by Cabinet on the 16th January. This decision was called in.

The Coordinating Committee couldn’t decide on the call in until Council in February had added two parent governors with voting rights to the Committee.

That was because it was a legal requirement to have at least two parent governors with voting rights on the committee.

Now regulation 7(5) and 7(6) of the Parent Governor Representatives (England) Regulations [2001] state that parent governors representatives cease to be qualified if they fail to attend a meeting for six months and also fail to send an apology.

Now, the Coordinating Committee has met many times over the last six months and I’ve not seen either one of the two parent governors at any public meeting, nor have the minutes reflected that they sent their apologies.

Therefore it seems logical to conclude that it doesn’t have the required two parent governor representatives.

As any decision on the future of Lyndale School could be called in, to the Coordinating Committee, how do you propose as Cabinet Member including the voice of parent governors in the current decision and to remedy that situation?

CLLR TONY SMITH: OK, thank you Mr. Brace. I think errm I will probably have to give you a written report on that regarding the detail of your question. I’ll give you a written report.

JOHN BRACE: OK, thank you.

MAYOR OF WIRRAL: OK, thank you Mr. Brace. That was the only public question that we had to deal with. I’m moving on to item 5, which is Leader’s, Executive Member’s and Chair’s reports.

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Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013

Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013

Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013

                                        

Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith, Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts
Councillor Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services) at the Special Cabinet Meeting of 4th September 2014 to discuss Lyndale School L to R Cllr Stuart Whittingham, Cllr Tony Smith (Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services), Cllr Bernie Mooney and Lyndzay Roberts

Councillor Tony Smith is a Labour Party councillor for Upton ward. He is the Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services. His expense claims relate mileage claims for travel to Cabinet meetings, the Youth Parliament meeting in November 2013, Council meetings, meetings of the Health and Wellbeing Board, meetings of the Schools Forum, meetings of the Children’s Trust Board, attendance at a social workers conference at the Floral Pavilion, the meeting of 5th February 2014 to consider the Lyndale School call ins, meetings of the Youth and Play Service Advisory Committee, a safeguarding meeting at Acre Lane, meetings with staff, training sessions and a meeting with parents and “Mr D” (or possibly “Ms D” or “Mc, D”) at Lyndale School on the 1st February 2013.

Some of his claims were not allowed, all seven disallowed claims relate to Cabinet meetings.

The meeting with parents and the mysterious “Mr D” (or possibly “Ms D” or “Mc, D”) on page 7 at Lyndale School on the 1st February 2013 comes as a surprise to me and this was three weeks before Wirral Council valued the land and buildings at Lyndale School at £2,696,103.00 and many months before the plan for closing the school became known to the public just before Christmas 2013.

Could the mysterious “Mr D” (or possibly “Ms D” or “Mc, D”) referred on page 7 be David Armstrong (Wirral Council’s Assistant Chief Executive/Head of Universal and Infrastructure Services)? Mr David Armstrong has responsibilities for school assets such as the land and buildings is on or does it refer to someone else? Who were the parents and the mysterious “Mr D” (or possibly “Ms D” or “Mc, D”) that Cllr Tony Smith met with at Lyndale School? What was talked about at this meeting and what was it about?

UPDATED 15:51 Lyndale School visitors’ book shows that Cllr Tony Smith, Julia Hassall and Dawn Hughes all signed the visitors’ book around the same time on that day. It is possible that Cllr Tony Smith is referring to parents + Mc (referring to Alison McGovern MP) and D (referring to Dawn Hughes).

Back in February 2014 David Armstrong denied he had visited the school and that anyone else in his team had gone to look at Lyndale School.

David 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 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.”

and

“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.”

Below are the nine pages of expenses forms submitted by Councillor Tony Smith.

Updated 20/10/2014 Wirral Council provided a further six pages of expenses forms for Councillor Tony Smith which can be viewed here.

Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 1
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 1
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 2
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 2
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 3
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 3
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 4
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 4
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 5
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 5
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 6
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 6
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 7
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 7
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 8
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 8
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 9
Cllr Tony Smith expenses claim 2013 2014 page 9

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The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation

The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation

The text of the emotional handwritten responses to the Lyndale School Closure Consultation

                                      

Phil Ward (Wirral Council's SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June)

Phil Ward (Wirral Council’s SEN Lead) at a later meeting of Wirral Schools Forum 2nd July 2014 (who chaired the consultation meeting at Acre Lane on the 16th June and is referred to in some of the responses)

Further to the publication of the ninety responses to the Lyndale School closure consultation on this blog this morning, below is the typed text of the handwritten responses and one text response that is very hard to read because of poor contrast with the background.

The first is from pages 9-10 of the file marked Lyndale parents.

     Lyndale is a vital service to children with the most difficult lives.

     They can’t cope with moving schools, because for the most part their health is very fragile.

     I want to see a 2-19 facility at Lyndale School so that the children there can continue to receive the care they so desperately need. No other school on Wirral can provide this.

     See ‘Parents Response to the Lyndale Consultation Document’ for a further explanation of my views.

Name, address, telephone number and e-mail address is all blacked out apart from Wirral in the address field.

From Page 17 of the Lyndale parents file:

PLEASE SEE OUR SEPARATE SHEET ENCLOSED WITH OUR FEEDBACK COMMENTS. THANK YOU.

===========================================

These are from the file marked Lyndale others starting at page 3.

member of the friends of Lyndale School association

Having helped with fund raising and attended events at the Lyndale School I have always been impressed by the ‘can do’ attitude of the staff and the calm and the happy atmosphere of the school.

Because of the very special and complex needs of these children I do not believe and neither do their parents that these needs can be met at the other special schools on the Wirral. I feel that the welfare or even the lives of these children may be endangered.

I would ask the Council not to sacrifice these very special children for ???? ???? of financial criteria or rationalisation process that is not in their best interests.

Surely the mark of a civilised society is the way that they care for its most vulnerable members

Contact details blacked out apart from Wirral.

From page 27:

I write this as a grandparent to my 3 year old granddaughter who has PMLD. I have witnessed the amazing progress she has made since she began attending Lyndale School. She has clearly benefitted from the range of professional skills of the staff team based there.
It seems cruel to uproot her from the school to another of two schools which appear to be oversubscribed. It is also devastating for the parents of Lyndale School, whose lives are tough enough dealing with their childrens complex needs, to have to endure the uncertainty facing their childrens schooling.
Keep Lyndale School open to maintain a geographical spread and encourage more parents to send their children there, to benefit from all the outstanding resources on offer

Contact details blacked out apart from MERSEYSIDE in address field.

======================================
From Stanley others file (page 3)

Having read the consultation document, if both Elleray Park and Stanley have the capacity to offer an additional 40+ places, then ideally, the children from Lyndale should be offered these places.

This will only be an issue if the numbers of children requiring specialist provision increases within the borough.

(Other staff section from page 7 onwards)

Member of staff ticked “THE OBSERVATORY SCHOOL” written in Other.

Whilst I understand all the reasons for the closure of Lyndale School, I would hope the opinions and feelings of the parents and carers of the pupils attending the school are listened to sensitively and with genuine regard for them.

Personally, I have real affection for the Lyndale School but also acknowledge the amazing provision offered by Stanley and Elleray Park schools.

I would love to see all three schools continuing to provide for CLD/PMLD children but understand Elleray Park and Stanley School can provide for Wirral’s children and also understand the financial implications and issues. I am confident that the correct decision will be made and know that this consultation will be well supported. I wish Wirral Cabinet well in their decision-making process.

Name is blacked out. Address: THE OBSERVATORY SCHOOL, BIDSTON VILLAGE ROAD, BIDSTON, WIRRAL Postcode: CH43 7QT. Telephone and e-mail address blacked out.

Page 9 onwards

Other: HEADTEACHER BHSC

1. Logically keeping a small school open in an area where alternative provision is available of equal quality of provision is not a feasible option. I base this judgement on financial basis, community flexibility, breadth of staff experience, staff workload.

I agree that Lyndale should close and students reallocated.

2. I agree that any financial savings must be redirected into receiving schools to ensure no detriment to student provision.

3. Other options proposed:-

– Restricting places at Elleray + Stanley would lead to possible under occupancy and therefore no financial security

– 2-19 is an interesting option worth a feasibility study.
– Federation can lead to leadership issue and lack of focus for all schools in the federation including competing agendas – not feasible
– colocation is possible but why? when alt schools can accommodate demand
– Academy or free school does not alter the facts at present re student numbers or finance. If Lyndale improved to to this change there are only so many students to go around + the issues are only deflected into alt schools
– Additional places at Elleray + Stanley + closure of Lyndale is the most sensible option financially and educationally

Name blacked out Address: Bebington High Sports College Wirral Postcode CH63 2PS Telephone and e-mail address blacked out.

====================================
From the Others file starting at page 57:

I HAVE LISTENED TO THE DISCUSSIONS FOR AND AGAINST THE CLOSURE OF THE LYNDALE SCHOOL. TO PUT TO ONE SIDE THE EMOTIONAL ISSUES THAT THE THREATENED CLOSURE HAS CAUSED, IN MY VIEW THIS IS A MEDICAL POSITION. THE CHILDREN REQUIRE SUCH INTENSE ONE TO ONE ATTENTION THAT SOME HOW THE MONEY MUST BE FOUND, POSSIBLY JUSTIFIABLY INTO A 5TH BAND THEREBY QUALIFYING FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING. ANOTHER OPTION IS TO APPEAL TO THE D OF E FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDING DUE TO THE CHILDRENS’ VULNERABILITY. SURELY THERE MUST BE A MORE HUMAN APPROACH TO CARE FOR THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY RATHER THAN BASE THEIR NEEDS ON CALCULATIONS.

This is not a handwritten response but is very hard to read due to a lack of contrast with the background (from page 59 of the other responses):

Dear Councillor

I am writing to tell you how worried I am about the possibility that the Lyndale School in Eastham may close. This is because the children at the school are very vulnerable and need to be with people they know well. Their fragile health means they will not be able to cope with losing all that they know and adjusting to a new environment.

The staff at The Lyndale School have years of experience, knowledge and expertise in caring for and educating children with a very high level of special needs. They create a very special environment where each child is valued and given the support they need to enjoy a good quality of life and achieve their potential. Parents feels that no other school on Wirral can provide the same safe and caring environment.

The children who attend Lyndale have many challenges to face in their everyday lives and their families are there alongside them. But this threat of the Lyndale closure is a challenge too ??? and many of the families are feeling under great strain at this time, worrying about having to send their children to schools that they know won’t be suitable for them.

The Lyndale School provides a service that is really needed both now and to future generations. It supports and gives hope to children and their families through some of the most difficult times in their lives. Will you please pledge to support the school and prevent its loss as a valuable asset in our community.

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