Last Friday, Lincolnshire County Council leader, Martin Hill, and I attended a public meeting in Corby Glen. It was packed full of parents concerned about the future of Charles Read Academy which has been threatened with closure in 2014 by the West Grantham Academies Trust. I understand better than ever the value parents place on Charles Read and the very personal education it is able to provide children, especially those with special needs.
It is clear that the school faces real challenges as pupil numbers (currently 269) are projected to fall to a level where it is very hard to teach all the subjects that have to be covered at secondary school without losing money. But parents are justifiably angry at the way in which the Trust dropped the closure proposal like a bombshell and appears to be trying to bounce the school community into going along with their plans. And the leader of the County Council pointed out that the housing growth planned in Grantham will quickly reverse the decline in numbers of secondary school age children so we might end up having to build a new secondary school a few years down the line if Charles Read is allowed to close. On Monday, I met with Lord Nash, the minister for schools who is responsible for all decisions about academies, and I received the following reassurances.
First, that the final decision about any possible closure will be taken by ministers and not by the Trust. Second, that the Trust must not prejudge the outcome of the consultation or act in any way that undermines confidence in Charles Read. Third, that officials will seek evidence from the County Council about future demand for secondary school places in the area before making any recommendation. As local MP it is my job to ensure that the minister makes the best decision for local children, both those currently studying at Charles Read and those who want to have a range of good secondary schools to choose from in the future.