Parents' anger at "botched" school consultation

Members of the Save Hameldon group who are (from left to right) Mary Fleming, Elizabeth Clayton and Sarah Ingham.
Members of the Save Hameldon group who are (from left to right) Mary Fleming, Elizabeth Clayton and Sarah Ingham.
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Angry parents have branded a consultation to decide the future of a troubled high school a shambles.

And they are calling for the process to begin again, claiming the correct protocol was not followed in connection to Burnley's Hameldon Community College.

Students supporting the campaign (from left to right) Connor Ingham, Phoenix Eastham and Harry Dillon Eastham

Students supporting the campaign (from left to right) Connor Ingham, Phoenix Eastham and Harry Dillon Eastham

Sarah Ingham, who is one of the founder members of Save Hameldon, a page set up on facebook by parents and supporters of the college, said: "Things were not done properly from the start.

"It's like building foundations, if it's not done correctly, do you start over and get it right or carry on regardless ignoring everyone and everything?

"We believe this is what has happened.

"They had their minds made up from the start and just dragged us along for the ride."

A public consultation on the future of the college began in September because despite considerable support over many years, the school was unable to overcome its significant challenges, which include long-term problems attracting pupils, and associated issues around educational standards and finances.

The responses were considered by the county council at its Cabinet meeting in December.

However as no viable options came forward for the future of the school, built only 11 years ago as part of the £250m Building Schools for the Future programme, the county council then moved to the current stage and published a statutory notice of the proposal to close the school.

The final decision will not be made until March.

But the Save Hameldon group claimed consultation forms were not sent to all parents and the questions were not clear.

Sarah added: "Most parents selected the option to keep the school because we knew nothing of the crippling debt caused by the PFI.

"But as a group we feel that not everyone has been honest."

When a group of parents attended the county council cabinet meeting they felt reassured when County Coun. Susie Charles promised she would do everything she could to avoid the closure of Hameldon

So the group was shattered when an email was sent to one of the parents from County Coun. Charles stating that the decision to close Hameldon had not been an easy one.

Sarah said: "It just proves our point that this has been a whitewash from the start and the decision had already been made before they even asked our opinion."

But County Coun. Charles, said the email had been misleading and was incorrect as the consultation was still ongoing.

She said: "I fully appreciate the confusion that a letter sent to a parent recently about Hameldon Community College caused.

"The content of the letter unfortunately conveyed that a final decision had already been made.

" I have apologised for this and stressed that we are still in a consultation period. I'd also like to reassure everyone that no final decision has been taken yet about the future of the school.

"I can confirm that we have written to the parent and provided further information to clarify the situation.

"Our paramount concern is always to provide the best education we can for all young people.”

In response to claims that not all parents had been consulted a spokesman for the county council said it not received any feedback from parents telling them about this.

The spokesman said: "We are confident that we consulted widely on the proposal.

"A consultation document which included a questionnaire, full details of the proposal, and answers to Frequently Asked Questions was made available on the county council website, at the school, in libraries and at the town hall.

"The school also arranged for each parent to receive a copy of this booklet individually.

"A consultation event was also held at the school, giving parents, staff and other interested parties the chance to ask questions and express any concerns they had.

"A number of news releases were also issued to make sure that people were fully aware of the proposal. "

"Messages were also posted on social media channels.

"We firmly believe that the statutory consultation has been robustly followed, and that there is no evidence to suggest that the process needs to start again."

"People can still express their views on the proposal until Monday 26 February and the future of the school will be considered next at the county council's Cabinet meeting in April.

"I'd like to be clear that any decision will be made by all Cabinet county councillors."

If the proposal to close the school goes ahead it would close with effect from August 31st.

Students in years seven to nine will move to other schools and current year 10 students will be given the chance to remain there until July, 2019 to complete their GCSEs.

The final decision will be taken about the proposal in March 2018.

The school opened in September, 2006 when the former Ivy Bank and Habergham High schools were merged.

Hameldon has enjoyed mixed fortunes, and in 2007, was placed into special measures by Ofsted.

Marked improvements were noted in 2009 when the school was taken out of special measures but in 2013 it was identified as having serious weaknesses by Ofsted.

Since then, dwindling student numbers have seen the school with now just 331 students in its £22m. building in Coal Clough Lane

Picture of 3 adults are (left) Mary Fleming (middle) Elizabeth Clayton (right) myself, Sarah Ingham.