Education ministers consider solutions to surplus places

By Jon Moreno

Friday, July 11, 2014


THE ISSUE of surplus school places at Island schools will be top of the agenda for discussion when three government ministers visit the Isle of Wight next week on a fact-finding mission.

In a letter from Education Secretary Michael Gove to Island councillor Chris Whitehouse, education spokesman for the Conservative group at County Hall, he confirmed the rumour Lord Nash, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, would be visiting the Island on Thursday.

He will be accompanied by two other government ministers, David Laws, the Minister for Schools, and Edward Timpson, the Minister for Children and Families.

In his letter, Mr Gove said: "Both Lord Nash and I are keenly interested in schools on the Isle of Wight.

"My department is aware of the issue of surplus school places on the Isle of Wight and my officials are discussing possible solutions with the local authority and the education Funding Agency.

"We expect the Island Free School and the Isle of Wight Studio School will increase parental choice and help to raise overall standards by promoting competition."

Recent statistics showed that there are 3,000 surplus spaces in Island secondary schools and almost 300 at primary schools.

One of the worst affected areas is the West Wight, where there is massive under-demand for primary places, but the Isle of Wight Council's executive member for children's services, Cllr Richard Priest, already stated a major reorganisation of primary schools was not anticipated.

Cllr Whitehouse, director of the Westminster Education Forum, said: "It’s a demonstration of the keen interest the government is taking in Island schools and children’s services, with no less than three ministers coming to check the facts for themselves.

"I very much hope the Education Funding Agency and Education Department officials will get to grips with the projections of demand and surplus capacity on the Island so we can ensure our schools are fit for purpose."



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Displaying the last 10 of 11 comments - Show All Comments

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by Owen Burson

12th July 2014, at 07:44:13

The education system should be answerable to our elected representatives, not run by them. Take politics out of it and let the experts run our schools.

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by Don Prescott

11th July 2014, at 14:41:41

Aah yes - Mr Laws - who, after claiming £40000 in "expenses" for "rent" paid to his boyfriend, was urged to resign by none other than Chris Huhne!!

Lib Dems - dontcha just luvvem.

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by John Heelan

11th July 2014, at 14:30:10

Gove (votes of no condidence at teaching conferences): Nash (investment banker, major Tory donor and sponsor of academies):
Timpson (per the Guardian)" traditional Tory: public-school educated, from a rich family (his great-great-grandfather started the Timpson shoe repair business), former barrister."
Laws (another investment banker, LibDem- a party that has lost political integrity)

So... it would be unwise to hold one's breath expecting any major outcomes from the visit of these "educational experts"- a breed that the Island has suffered from in recent years.

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by Mat Thomas

11th July 2014, at 14:12:35

" Fact finding?", load of hooey, this is a political visit to help out the Tories who made such a mess and promote Gove's failing policies. The local Tories have asked for help from central Government because Whitehouse and Co. have no credibility. If I was Priest I wouldn't allow them to look at one document or open one filing cabinet, or meet them. Let them stew in their own murky fat and instruct the officers to do the same.

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by Stephen Spacagna

11th July 2014, at 11:50:51

Great news, Mr Gove is sending a former Investment Banker, a Barrister and a Company Director to sort out Island Schools and tell Teachers how to do their job. Of course the competition element is important too perhaps we could enlist Dr Beeching to decide how to run schools as a profitable business? How about asking some Teachers? or is that politically motivated?

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by david wright

11th July 2014, at 11:23:19

I always hate the concept of 'over capacity' and surplus places it is disingenuous and misleading.

Are they saying they want to see every school struggling,over capacity, 36 to a class and bursting at the seams?

That would really improve standards!!!

Taking the West Wight for example as i live here are they taking into account the building going on here? Whilst they would claim to have accurate 'forecasts' they cannot foresee who will move into the area or how many children they will have!

The problem with culling surplus places is creating extra spaces in the future when numbers rise. It is seen in many schools where numbers have risen and they use temporary classrooms that end up in use for 40 years!

300 primary school places is not THAT many island wide i would have thought.

If the 3000 high school surplus places is accurate then shut one school! Simple as that and no £100.000 consultation fee!!!

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by Peter Daws

11th July 2014, at 11:18:51

We keep getting told we need to build more and more houses to meet the need of the Islands growing community, if this is the case why aren't there the children to fill the schools. As for any of the current or past Tories giving advice on this matter they must be either very thick skinned, suffering from amnesia or think we're all stupid. I would suggest they keep your heads down for a little bit longer before offering any education words of wisdom.

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by david wright

11th July 2014, at 11:08:32

Lets solve it with a breeding initiative!
Your council needs you now!!

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by roger mazillius

11th July 2014, at 10:48:08

Thanks Don. This was an important issue when we reorganised IW schools into a two-tier system. We proposed certain closures to meet that over capacity.
You may recall that all hell broke lose around the schools identified for closure to the extent that it became clear we would not achieve the necessary political majority to vote them through.
So we did our best but were aware that this was problem that would need to be addressed in the future.
You may recall that tiny primary schools like Chillerton and Chale were costing far more per pupil than larger schools and that issue was recognised by the reorganisation.
High schools were the hardest issue to deal with. Most defended their history, geographical position and in some cases their improving standards to avoid the axe.
However, the new provision from free schools, an alternative which I support providing they are properly managed, has made the number of surplus places in that sector even more of an issue.

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by Jonathan Young

11th July 2014, at 10:41:58

So was Cllr Whitehouse the first to be told about this "rumour"? If so that would have been a gross breach of protocol, because Cllr Richard Priest (Ind), not Cllr Whitehouse, is the IW Council Executive member with responsibility for education. Or perhaps Cllr Whitehouse was the first person to write a Press release about it with his own name featuring prominentlyin it. That strikes me as the more likely explanation...

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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