Day of Shame

Parent's Views Ignored Yet Again

The month of JULY is one that will be long remembered in the annuls of Gloucestershire County Council notoriety.

The Education Committee meet on the 10th July to decide:

Whether Proceed with the implementation of additional enhanced provision in mainstream schools in Stroud & the South Cotswolds to enable more inclusion of MLD Children.
Whether to issue closure notices on Bownham Park MLD Special School.

The result of the vote after over two hours of debate and deliberation was momentous and will be long remembered by everyone, though for differing reasons. It was approval for the additional enhancement and refusal on the Closure.

The overjoyed League felt it to be a very discerning vote, to go ahead with the funded new initiatives but not to attach to it the automatic presumption that closure of a special school be an essential requisite of improved inclusion opportunities. The retention of Bownham provided a safety net for the possible failures and a continuum of specialist provision for those that required it. The League being pragmatic realised that this did have longer-term financial implications for the LEA and that the existing level of provision and support at Bownham Park was not reasonably sustainable in its present format and structure. Our thoughts as we left Shire Hall that lunchtime were optimistically to seek the opportunity to broker an amicable resolve.

Unfortunately as we were making our way home those politicians who had supported the motion to close Bownham Park, egged on by some more extreme protagonists, reacted in a most undignified manner. There was no attempt at reconciliation or for a reappraisal of the situation and the opportunities it made. It was as though a larger power had become enraged at the usurping of its authority. There was to be no deviation from the master plan. Before Councilors had got to the sweet course a piece of paper was being passed around to gain ten names to enact a motion of rescission to get the Education Committee decision in relation to school closure, overturned. No stone was to be left unturned, no dignity was to be left untrounced, this was being given full priority to be put before the Full Council in just nine days time. It was interesting to hear who was involved in this activity.

We did everything we could to mediate, but were presented with a blank wall. The protagonists showing utter contempt and a misiterperative skill, blamed the vote "15 - 14" as being unfairly tipped by the votes of the three Parent Governor reps. They tried to make out that they should not have voted on this issue, that they did not have the right to vote on this issue. They accused them of being political plants, they did everything rather than acknowledge that the result of the vote had as much to do with abstentions as anything else and that the result showed nothing other than a complete lack of consensus of agreement on the Education Committee.

On 19th July the Full Council sat and the Motion was presented. It appeared that ten names on a list were sufficient to have the motion raised and that no justification is required for overturning the decision of your own Fully Delegated Powers Specialist Committee. The Party whips were in full evidence and there are no additional members on the Full Council. This one item was dealt with in isolation and without much reference to how it affected other parts of the policy. The same old misinformation of how closure was a demand of inclusion, along with the misleading politically correct rhetoric that was peddled out in an attempt to justify the already made political decision. Instead of referring the issue back to Education Committee, as they should have, with a comment to achieve an amicable resolve. The Full Council were duped into effectively declaring their own education committee incompetent and revoking the delegated powers on this one item in isolation.

Even then the vote of 34 - 26 could hardly be claimed as being conclusive. The League will continue to oppose the implementation of the new policy where it involves the closure of a special school and we feel there is no suitable prescribed alternative specialist provision. The battle for Bownham Park will continue to the next phase where we will be objecting to the Schools Organisation Committee.

The Councilors who have come through this month not smelling of roses, now seem to feel the need for attack and vilification of the League as some sort of rationalisation to themselves for their actions. Sooner or later they will have to answer for their actions, our hope is that they will not do too much damage in the mean time.


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