Burnley MP Julie Cooper has slammed the Government for “interfering” in Burnley’s education scene after the shock news that troubled Burnley secondary school Hameldon Community College is to be shut down.
The ‘super school’, which opened just 11 years ago under the £250m. Building Schools for the Future programme, will now close for good on August 31st.
But Labour MP Julie Cooper blamed the opening of the ‘free’ Burnley High School in 2014 as the final nail in the coffin for struggling Hameldon.
Mrs Cooper said: “First and foremost, my thoughts go out to the pupils, parents and staff at Hameldon who must be devastated at this news.
“The Government’s introduction of free schools, meaning those outside of local authority control, led to the opening of the new Burnley High School which was a nail in the coffin for Hameldon.
“Strategic leadership was coming from Lancashire County Council but the Government meddled and Hameldon said its already small numbers dwindle even further when the new school was built.
“It was undermining local authority control.
“Hameldon’s situation had just become unsustainable. Most of Burnley High School’s pupils came from existing Burnley schools.”
Mrs Cooper said the priority now must be to ensure that Hameldon’s pupils must not now see their education badly disrupted.
She added: “It was clear things couldn’t go on as they were. I feel very sorry for the children and their parents. They must be given every help to ensure their education isn’t affected.”
Mrs Cooper also revealed to the Express that outside groups were interested in taking on the Hameldon building but the Government would not take on the deficit.
She added: “The Government had no hesitation in pressing the county council to close the school. I hope that the building can be used in the future for education or training, much like the University Technical College in Burnley, which was also a fiasco.”
Lancashire County Council, which made the decision to close Hameldon in a special meeting on Thursday, based its contentious decision on three issues - educational standards, the school’s financial deficit and falling pupil numbers.
County Coun. Susie Charles, County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, said: “I’m aware of the different views on this but it has been considered at length, taking careful account of both sides.
“Closing a school isn’t something done lightly and certainly would not be happening now if the arguments for closure weren’t as strong as they are.”
Hameldon was created from a merger of existing schools Habergham High School and Ivy Bank High School as part of a major restructuring of Burnley’s secondary education.
County Coun. Charles added: “We have a duty to provide a high-quality education for all of our young people and we cannot justify keeping open a school with consistently poor results, in spite of the range of additional support that the county council has provided.
“The low number of pupils at the school makes it difficult for it to provide a broad and balanced education.
“There are now fewer than 200 pupils in a school built for 750. These numbers impact on the school’s financial situation which means that the school must lose teachers and other staff to be able to balance the books. This then has an additional knock-on effect on standards at the school.
“I’m fully aware that some people want Hameldon to stay open, but the truth is that the school’s difficulties go back many years and the situation hasn’t improved despite the best efforts of everyone involved.
“We really have tried. Ofsted inspectors have also been very concerned about the school for many years.”
A phased closure of the school is proposed to minimise any disruption to pupils. Current Year 10 pupils will remain at the school and specific arrangements will be made for them to complete their Key Stage 4 education and GCSE exams. The Year 10 pupils that this affects will leave the school in July 2019.