Consultation…with attitude

There’s no easy way of saying this.  Tonight’s final meeting of the future of the very special Lyndale School in Eastham was a disgrace.  I have never before been to a meeting that was billed as a ‘consultation’ only to hear many of the points and questions raised by the audience dismissed and contradicted by the ‘chair’.

No wonder the parents, children, staff and councillors were so agitated about the refusal to publish any ‘minutes’ of the various consultation meetings.  Indeed, we were told they are not even minutes but, instead, ‘high level notes’.  An Octave, presumably.

As the ‘Dedicated Schools Grant’ from the Government (£240 million to Wirral) cannot be touched by councillors for ‘pet projects’, any school closure does not actually save the Council a single penny.  Any ‘savings’ are merely shared around the remaining schools, some of which will, in any case, be taking the pupils from the school that has closed.

Among the points raised by the audience were:

  • A request for the Principal Educational Pyschologist’s Report – REFUSED by the officers because it may contain ‘personal data’.
  • It transpires that NO paediatricians have been consulted
  • The support of the full Council FIVE years ago to retain Lyndale will not be in the report to Cabinet
  • The suggestion in the Consultation Document that staff would be redeployed is INCORRECT
  • No pupils at the other ‘alternatives’ to Lyndale have the same level of learnng difficulties

As well as some very clear and reasonable questions from parents and staff, it was good to see four councillors in the audience – all of whom spoke for the school – the three Eastham Councillors, including the new Cllr. Chris Carubia who, if tonight is anything to go by, is no push over, and Cllr Paul Hayes from Wallasey, who asked why on earth a council officer was chairing the meeting and not the Cabinet Member sitting next to him.

Indeed, as the meeting went on, the ‘Chairs’ attitude towards the audience became a common and, in my opinion, warranted complaint.

I asked:

  1. As the officers had been wrong to try to close Kingsway School in Seacombe (which the then Conservative/Lib Dem Cabinet kept open), what made them think they were right to close Lyndale?   They tried the same ‘it’s not viable in the long term’ argument then, we voted against and kept it open.  Most recent Ofsted report? OUTSTANDING
  2. As children at Lyndale receive 1:1 care and the ‘SEN Improvement Test’ that Councils must follow makes clear that ‘the alternative school should inform in writing that they are willing to receive pupils and have, or will have, all the facilities necessary’, how the alternative schools would square the need for providing extra care for former Lyndale Pupils with not reducing care for their existing pupils.
  3. How would the alternative schools know if they could meet the standard if they didn’t know how many former Lyndale pupils would be attending and how would parents know which school to choose if they hadn’t been told they could reach the standard.

The consultation closes on 25th June and will then go to Cabinet with a decision expected in December 2014.

In the meantime:

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3 comments

  1. I’ve started to write up the meeting on my blog starting with Lyndale School Consultation Meeting: Julia Hassall explains why Wirral Council are consulting on closure (Part 1). It’ll probably be more detailed than “high level notes” will be (but it’s based on my own notes).

    If you’d been running the consultation how would you have improved it? A transcript of what was said at each consultation meeting published the day after? A video or audio recording?

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    1. Its a pity it was not recorded to capture the condescending tone and dismissive way in which some of the parents were treated. I believe that such an emotive and delicate situation could have, and should have been handled in a more sympathetic and professional manor. In my opinion it does not matter whether it is the first,sixth or twenty sixth meeting, common courtesy should prevail.

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      1. Do you think people behave better when they know it’s being recorded? We would happily have filmed it.

        However, in the past (a long time ago) I did covertly film seven and a half minutes of a public meeting (until I ran out of tape) only to receive a shouting at afterwards by the Chair (who is since the elections a former politician).

        In fact only yesterday evening there was an irate police sergeant at Wallasey Town Hall having a go at me and Leonora outside Committee Room 1 about “recording devices”.

        I would love my working environment to be one where “common courtesy” prevailed.

        As a member of the press, my perception recently is one of being slightly under siege by politicians, the police etc for exercising my freedom of speech rights and it’s democracy itself that suffers when abuses of power go unchecked. .

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