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No change to age range of Dulverton Schools

The Proposal to Change the Age Range at All Saints and Dulverton Middle and Community School
A Statement from the Chair of Governors of the Exmoor Federation, Dave Smith

Dated July 9, 2014
  • All Parents, Staff and Governors of the Exmoor Federation
  • Heads and Chairs of Governors of West Somerset College, Minehead Middle School, The Quantock Academy and Kingsmead Academy
  • Dulverton Town Council
 Copied to
  • Peter Lewis, Interim Director of Children’s Services
  • Julia Ridge, Lead Officer for Somerset County Council
  • Cllr John Osman. Leader of the Council
  • Cllr Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families
 The age range of the schools in Dulverton will not change as a result of the consultation process undertaken by Somerset County Council.
I wrote to parents and staff of the schools within the Exmoor Federation on June 12 2014 informing them that the Governing Body had resolved not to support the proposal to change the age range.
I also wrote direct to the Leader of the Council on the same day informing him of the Governing Body’s resolution.
Today, July 9, I received a letter from Peter Lewis, the Interim Director of Children’s Services for Somerset County Council.
His letter is shown in full at the end of this statement.
It brings to an end a lengthy and, some would say, tortuous process.
Those who expressed their view that a change to the age range was needed will not have changed their view simply because of the statements of the Governing Body or the County Council.
However I can assure all those with an interest in the educational provision in the area of three points: 
  1. The Governors’ recommendation to maintain the current age range in the schools was reached after lengthy discussion over a number of meetings. As the person who chaired the last three meetings I can confirm that discussions were wide ranging, arguments were made with care and clarity and that there was no suggestion of short term pragmatism or parochialism.
  2. I can also confirm that the Governing Body’s approach to this matter has been consistently measured, thorough and responsible. They have studied consultation reports with diligence and have sought to reflect faithfully the various views held on this contentious matter.
  3. The whole Governing Body recognised that either option would present significant challenges. We are united in our commitment to make the decision work for the benefit of all the children in our area. We hope the whole community will join with us in that endeavour.
It is a matter of disappointment to me that the whole process has taken so much time and has left families in a state of prolonged uncertainty. It has been of great concern to me that my letter to the Leader of the Council received no reply until today – very nearly four weeks later.
During that time parents and their children have started their transfer program to the middle school not knowing if their time there would be two years or four. Such a situation is enormously unsettling.
However the proposal can no longer hold our attention and consume our time and energy.
The focus now must be on the future and our vigour will be devoted to ensuring that the children and young people of our area thrive, prosper and succeed. We trust that those who are committed to a vibrant, dynamic and successful educational community in our area will be part of that ambition and strive to make it a reality now and into the future.
The hundreds of hours of people’s time and the many gallons of emotional energy that have been poured into this process should not take our attention away from the progress that has been made in the Exmoor Federation of schools as recent test results testify.
I thank you all for your interest in our schools and your commitment to ensuring a high quality educational experience for the children and young people of the local area. The Governors and staff look forward to working together with parents and the wider local community in the new school year.
Letter from Peter Lewis dated July 9 2014
Dear Dave
Proposal to Change the Age Range at Dulverton 
Thank you for your letter to John Osman dated 12 June 2014 advising that the Governing Body had resolved not to support the proposal to change the age range which they asked the Local Authority to investigate.
I am writing to inform you that the Local Authority will take no further action on this matter. Therefore the age range at the Dulverton schools will not be changed as a result of the consultation process.
The Local Authority recognises that there have been substantial changes in circumstances since the consultation was commissioned and also recognises that, while views across the parent body and the wider community vary, no overwhelming case for change has been made. The local authority also notes the comments made in your letter to John.
None of the above prevents your Governing Body from returning to the question of the suitability of the age range in your area at any time in the future.
The Local Authority will publish an information report for public record and transparency to explain the changes that have occurred since the original request from the Governing Body to consider the change in age range and the responses to the consultation. Kingsmead School in Wiveliscombe were asked to consider changing their admission criteria and extend their catchment area; following consultation this has been agreed by their governors. The Local Authority will, in September, be consulting on whether free school transport should be provided to families living in the extended catchment. Legally those families for whom Kingsmead is the nearest school have an entitlement to free transport.
The Local Authority remains committed to supporting and promoting high quality educational provision and we wish you well in your continued work for the children and families of the Exmoor Federation. I would personally like to take this opportunity to thank you and your governing body for all the work that you have undertaken to consider your Federation’s options in the light of changing national policies and the way in which you have considered them.
Yours sincerely
Peter Lewis
Interim Director of Children’s Services