Consultants Recommend Keeping Mundesley Boarding House

Mundesley House

Mundesley House

A report commissioned by the Council has recommended retaining Mundesley Boarding House for off-island school pupils.

But it says financial contributions from parents need to be formalised and opportunities to generate income explored.

The report has been written by consultancy group Indigo, based at the University of Cumbria.

They spoke to past, present and future users of the boarding house to get their views, with 200 people from across the islands attending the consultation sessions.

The authors considered alternative arrangements, such as a daily boat service to get off-island children to the school base on St Mary’s, but raised several safety concerns about this.

These included restrictions on boating during darker nights in winter, the pressure on operators to get pupils to school in poor weather and the distress caused to the youngsters during rough crossings.

Data from boatmen also suggested the children could miss up to 30 days of schooling each year because of cancellations and it would be the legal responsibility of the the Council to provide care for those who were stranded on St Mary’s.

During the face-to-face consultations, the overwhelming majority of off-island residents supported the current arrangements.

And an on-line questionnaire showed that most St Mary’s respondents supported the boarding house too.

All parents who use the facility said they would be willing to make a contribution of £35 per term towards the running costs, with four out of six saying they would also pay towards breakfasts and evening meals.

By law, the Council can’t charge parents to use the facility but the consultants recommend looking at ways to formalise the contribution.

The total cost of running Mundesley was just over £120,000 last year, or £8,000 for each of the 15 pupils currently using the service. Funding is through the government’s education grant.

The report says that compares favourably with similar state-run boarding houses, in places like Orkney and Keswick, although most of these take larger numbers of students.

And there may be opportunities to raise extra income by letting out accommodation when it’s not needed.

There are risks for the future though.

It’s predicted that up to 29 boarders will need to be accommodated by 2018. That would mean converting two of the self-contained flats for use by youngsters.

But there are concerns that if one of the current houseparents, a married couple, were to leave their job, there wouldn’t be accommodation for a new recruit.

They also recommend allowing the school catering manager to take over the preparation of meals, potentially saving money and allowing the current house parents to focus on pastoral care.

And policies and procedures for maintaining discipline need to be reviewed following criticism in a recent Ofsted report.

The report will go before councillors at next week’s Children and Young People Committee.

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