MP challenges Maple Grove closure threat that has left staff, pupils and parents ‘with great deal of uncertainty’

Maple Grove school, March

Maple Grove school, March - Credit: Archant

MP Steve Barclay has challenged the possible closure of Maple Grove Infants School, March and said today’s announcement “has left pupils, parents and staff with a great deal of uncertainty”.

The NE Cambs MP, who attended a governors meeting at the school tonight, highlighted staffing as one of his concerns over the proposed ‘merger’ with Westwood Junior School.

Although tonight’s meeting was private, Mr Barclay is understood to have spoken against the proposed closure. It is understood he told governors of his concern that Cambridgeshire County Council was rushing it through and not following Department of Education advice on schools in special measures.

Earlier Mr Barclay had released a statement explaining that if the county council proposals go ahead “this means that staff at Westwood will continue with their existing contracts, will not have to reapply for their roles but staff at Maple Grove will have to do so”.

The decision to make all existing staff, both teaching and non teaching, redundant and made to reapply for their jobs “will be a cause of great concern to parents, staff and the wider community”.

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He said the consultation that begins on Monday was not binding on the county council and was “simply intended to inform county councillors when they reach their decision on the preferred option”.

Mr Barclay said Cambridgeshire County Council had chosen to reject the government’s preferred option for the infants’ school to become an academy and instead now intended to close Maple Grove and expand Westwood.

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“The county education authority was unable to tell me what cost saving they have identified from a single governance approach between the infants and primary schools,” he said.

“They accept there will be a cost saving from their preferred option but claim this is not the reason for their decision. They have suggested there are other benefits from having a one school approach including ease of transition between infants and junior school where sometimes results dip.”

The MP has detailed recent Ofsted inspections at Maple Grove and questioned why “wider concerns” were not identified earlier. The relatively speedy downgrading of the school, too, from good to requiring improvement also, he felt, had not been properly explained.

On two occasions he said “I understand the governing body were not consulted properly”.

He said: “What is clear from today’s announcement, which has appeared in the local media before parents have been told or even the MP informed is that a decision taken by a cross-party group of county councillors at their meeting on Wednesday, with staff informed yesterday, has left pupils, parents and staff with a great deal of uncertainty.

“Where individual members of staff have failed to perform it is right in the best interests of the education of children at the school, that this is robustly managed. “However, today’s announcement treats all staff the same both good and bad, it leaves administrative and support staff in limbo and parents with a consultation which appears to present only one option”.

He added: “It is important in the coming weeks that we maintain the morale of all involved in the school as best we can while lessons for children progress.

“We need to get decisions as quickly as possible to address the inevitable uncertainty that staff and parents will feel.

“I will work closely with the governors and others to ensure children get the best education they can in whatever arrangements are put in place following consultation.”

What is your opinion? Should Maple Grove remain? Or is a merger with Westwood in the children’s best interest? Email your views to:

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