A Fenland and Norfolk merger could protect students at a closure threatened Wisbech school

PUBLISHED: 11:35 07 March 2018

Unity School in Wisbech, run by TBAP Trust. Cambridgeshire County Council  has warned it cannot close without getting special permission from the regional schools commissioner.

Unity School in Wisbech, run by TBAP Trust. Cambridgeshire County Council has warned it cannot close without getting special permission from the regional schools commissioner.

Archant

The fight to protect students who face a commute to a new school 40 miles away has been stepped up by MP Steve Barclay who hopes to find a Fenland solution in conjunction with Norfolk.

Parents with children at Unity School in Wisbech received letters at the start of this year saying the Fen school could close by September and pupils transferred to St Neots, more than 40 miles away.

But Mr Barclay said: “I do not believe the length of journey is at all suitable,” for the 24 youngsters who have additional emotional and mental health needs.

“I believe there is scope for a possible local Fenland solution in conjunction with Norfolk, and will be exploring this further in the weeks ahead,” he said.

And he expressed his concern that the trust, TBAP, had forged ahead with its idea before getting approval from the schools commissioner.

“As this school is an academy any movement of the students needs to be approved by the regional schools commissioner, Sue Baldwin,” Mr Barclay said.

“I have already spoken with her about this case and am pleased that she is actively engaged with it.

“I have also written to the Opportunity Area Education Board for their views given that, on the one hand the Wisbech site has limited facilities, but, on the other students will face much longer journeys to an alternative site.

“I also met with Jonathan Lewis, the newly appointed service director for education for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough to further set out my concern, and we discussed exploring alternative, more local, provision for the students currently being taught at Unity TBAP.

Mr Barclay stepped into the arena to protect the students, aged from 11 to 18, who study at Unity School, after leaders said the journey times of senior teaching staff between the two sites was wasting time and money.

They also said the St Neots unit had better facilities and the merger would save building maintenance costs.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “The Trust is required to submit a full business case outlining the consultation and the reasons for their proposed changes.

“As this is an academy, this will be referred to the Regional Schools Commissioner’s head teacher board who will make a decision on the plans.

One parent said: “How are children supposed to cope with those long journeys at the start and end of school days?”

Jane Lancaster-Adlam, head of school, said in a letter to parents: “The proposal will result in a structure that is far more efficient, provide a higher quality of provision for the learners and will reduce both staffing and building / maintenance costs.”

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