Change In School Terminology Raises Issues

There are fears that a proposed change in the status of the Five Islands School could jeopardise off-island bases, but headteacher, Bryce Wilby says there are no closure plans.

In Tuesday’s Children and Young People Committee, Councillors heard a proposal to change the description of the school from  ‘federated’ to ‘amalgamated’, but that could affect the extra protection currently afforded to the off-island schools.

It’s claimed the change is required to bring the school into line with recent Central Government terminology.

The Five Islands School was formed in 2002 by the federation of several schools, scattered across the islands, under a single governing body.

This process had just been introduced by the then Labour Government and the school was amongst the first in the country to take advantage of this.

One of the arguments used to justify this federation was the need to ensure the long term viability of the off-island bases, so if an island had no children for a period of time, the site could be used for educational and community related purposes and the building maintained ready to be reopened when needed.

It also meant that a decision about closing any site in the federation would require strict review including re-establishment of the Local Authority School’s Organisation Committee, community consultation and approval by members via the Children and Young People Committee.

Councillor Mollie Peacock believes that federated status was agreed to protect off-island teaching and told Tuesday’s meeting that off-island schools have special needs and are being marginalised.

But Council Officer, Keith Grosset, said governors could represent off-islander views. That brought a reply from Bryce Wilby, who said he asked the Council to appoint a St Martin’s governor in the recent election but they chose a St Mary’s resident instead.

Roy Duncan told Tuesday’s meeting that the school and governors should work for the islands as a whole and Bryce said he agreed.

Bryce told us he doesn’t feel the change in terminology will affect the long-term viability of the off-island schools.

He said that having the off-island bases as part of a single school makes them stronger and that they form an integral part of the community on those islands.

The Council has written to the Department for Education to confirm site closure procedures.

No decision was taken on the school status in this meeting as a Councillor had to leave and that meant there were too few members left to vote.


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