Angry parents who attended a public meeting about the proposed closure of the Grange School & Sports College said they felt it was a “done deal” and accused the council of “dragging out the uncertainty”.
South Gloucestershire Council held a public meeting last Thursday night but there was criticism that it had not been well advertised – hence the fact that only about 30 people turned up.
Parents said there had been no letters about the meeting but the council said that it had been set out in the consultation paper that the date and time of the meeting would be advertised on the council website.
Blame was also levelled at the council for allowing the buildings to become so run down that the repair bill stands at £10m and for saying that the school, which was put into special measures following an Ofsted inspection in April 2013, might close which had led to falling numbers.
Dozens of parents have pulled their children out of the Grange and moved them to nearby schools including Sir Bernard Lovell which then went into special measures itself.
The school has places for around 900 children but it is only a third full and almost half of the staff have already left.
Some people at the meeting said that staff at the council had advised parents to move their children as the school was likely to close, although that was refuted by the authority’s head of strategy and development , Clare Medland.
The Grange was put into special measures as Ofsted said it was failing to give students an adequate education but it has since been improving. Efforts to find a sponsor though were unsuccessful and the council is now formally consulting on closing the school.
Council chiefs acknowledged that the situation was causing uncertainty and anxiety but stressed that a lot of effort had been made to keep the school open by seeking a sponsor.
Susannah Hill, interim head of education, said that talks were taking place with staff and their unions to keep them motivated to continue working at the school until the proposed closure in August 2017.
Tony Saunders, policy development officer, said that numbers at the school had been 50% down before Ofsted’s inspection.
Just nine students joined in Year 7 in September and Mr Saunders revealed that there had been “very, very few” bids for places for 2015.
“There are no signs of numbers improving,” he said.
Clare Medland acknowledged that there had been a lack of investment over the years for a number of reasons. She said that in 2011 she had spoken to the then headteacher Steve Cook and the governing body about applying for private finance initiative but at the time they had not been prepared to go down that route as they were concerned they might lose control of the buildings.
Parent Kate Crees told the meeting: “I believe, like most people in this room, that the school will close.”
Another parent criticised the council for “dragging out the uncertainty”.
Concerns raised at the meeting included a parent who said his son, who has ADHD and dyslexia, receives excellent support at Grange and he did not know where he would go if the school closed.
And another parent said she had moved her child to Sir Bernard Lovell School in Oldland Common because of the uncertainty but he had not enjoyed it and she had moved him back to the Grange.
Earlier in the day there were meetings with members of staff and governors. Meanwhile the deadline for consultation is this Friday, 14th November.
Members of the Children and Young People’s Committee will make a decision on 3rd December. If they agree that the school should be closed, a public notice will be issued and the final decision will be taken on 4th March.
A new £3m studio school is due to open on the Grange campus next September, with the money coming from the Education Funding Agency.