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Driving pupils to exhaustion

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 17, 2013

  • Cllr Frances Nicholson: 'No decision will be easy'

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CHILDREN in Dulverton will be too tired to study if they have to make long journeys to a new school due to council cuts, objectors to the proposals fear.

Many 13-year-olds currently travelling to Minehead Community College do not return home until after 5pm and have to do their homework at break times, a recent council meeting heard.

But 11-year-olds could soon be bussed to Kingsmead School, in Wiveliscombe, via villages on Exmoor if Somerset County Council closes Dulverton Middle School.

Marion Silverlock, who taught at Exford Church of England First School for seven years, said: "For the children that go to Minehead at the moment, it is only a 21-mile trip but the bus diverts all over the place.

"Kingsmead is a little bit nearer, but not much.

"The main point of this is children say the journeys are bad enough for them as 13 year olds but the thought of their younger siblings making similar journeys is out of the question.

"As a result of the initial consultations, the council abandoned the idea of taking children to Minehead aged 11 on the basis of travel time and Kingsmead seems to be the nearest."

Somerset County Council is reviewing the futures of All Saints' First School, Exford First School and Dulverton Middle School, which all form the Exmoor Federation.

All three could be affected by the authority if it scraps the three-tier education system – a format now used by only a handful of councils in the UK.

The council has put forward these proposals:

Dulverton First would become an early years and infant school for children aged up to seven.

Dulverton Middle would become a junior school for children aged between seven and 11.

Kingsmead School in Wiveliscombe would consult on a change in its admission arrangements that would give priority to the year seven children living in the Dulverton Middle catchment at 11 from September 2015 (also year eight to transfer in September 2015).

If the changes are approved, transport will be provided to take pupils to Kingsmead but they will continue to have the legal right to free transport to their nearest school if there are places. Depending on where families live, this could be South Molton, Minehead, Tiverton or Wiveliscombe.

Mrs Silverlock added: "You have only got to look at a map to see Dulverton is not near anywhere but it serves many small villages so it is an important hub. If you destroy the services, you will destroy the whole area."

The three-tier system sees children attend a first school from five to nine, a middle school from nine-13, and an upper school until they reach 18.

A recent meeting of Dulverton Town Council heard that county council officers had worked alongside school governors to produce a proposal that schools in Dulverton should become an infant and junior school, which would safeguard the facilities.

At 11, most children will go to Kingsmead, which was thought to be "less threatening" than Minehead.

Children from Simonsbath would go to South Molton and Exford would remain a first school, with children transferring to Minehead Middle.

Parents from Minehead and Timberscombe who attended the meeting last week said they chose to drive to Dulverton Middle School every day because they value the middle school's educational approach.

Councillor Frances Nicholson, Somerset County Councillor for Dulverton, said: "Governors of the Exmoor Federation are rightly proud of the three schools in the federation. Their view was endorsed when Ofsted came to Exford First and Dulverton Middle in July and gave them a 'good' inspection rating.

"No decision here will be easy, so it is really important that everyone who has something to say or any ideas to contribute should take the opportunity now of responding to the consultation."

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  • sfj642  |  December 17 2013, 12:36PM

    County needs to dig deep and keep Dulverton's middle school as it is. There is sparsity funding they could make use of and it appears the West Somerset College has some money left over as it is trying to attract the Dulverton children.

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