Updated 23 October 2022 – we have added in some supporting evidence from Ofsted reports and another good point for an alternative approach given by Forum members.
A large, united outcry has greeted the Leeds City Council proposal to close Queensway Primary School in July 2023. The crucial consultation on this Aireborough School’s issue is due to close on 23 October 2022 at 4pm ; here are the questions and some outline points that you may like to consider for a response, if you have not made one already. It would be helpful for clarification to add your own experiences to any points you use. You will find the
The Consultation Survey has three questions
- Do you support the proposal to permanently close Queensway Primary School with effect from end of July 2023? This is a tick box for your level of agreement or disagreement.
- If you do not support the proposal, please tell us why? There is no place to tell LCC why you do agree!!
- Do you have any alternative suggestions to manage primary school places in Yeadon and Guiseley area of Leeds? If so, please provide your suggestions below:
You will find an excel spreadsheet to download here with some figures for Aireborough Schools that we have put together from various (mainly public) sources to give you an idea of certain key facts for each school.
If you are not able to make your response in time, Councillor Paul Alderson has said that if you email your responses to him after 23 October, he will make sure they get to the right place. Email you answers to the above to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do not support the proposal please tell us why?
- Queensway is a purpose built school in the centre of a large estate in the centre of Airborough. Airbrough is a location that is well known for attracting new families from other areas eg Leeds city centre. School numbers have always fluctuated and would have to be extremely low to justify closure in such a popular and large urban setting.
- The school is an important community hub specifically built to serve the Queensway area. Placemaking is an important concept in Leeds Strategic Plans.
- Leeds City Council has endorsed the concept of a 20 minute neighbourhood as part of its Local Plan. There are currently 479 primary school children who live within 20 minutes walk of the school, this is over twice the capacity of the school. If all these children opted for Queensway, it would be too small.
- Until quite recently, the school had built up an excellent reputation amongst local families; being consistently full and in demand. The low reception numbers in 2022, are the outcome of a particular leadership situation in the school from around 2018 – 2021 that is well know by local people and outlined in Ofsted reports. Ofsted Report 2022– “However, in recent years, there have been several changes to personnel in the early years setting. Not all current staff are fully trained to support children in this part of school.” This poor performance was accentuated by the 2020 lockdown when it appears the school was not monitored as it should have been in normal times. This unusual and detrimental situation has led to a temporary rather than permanent reduction in numbers – especially given the number of children in the area.
- The above situation has now been rectified by the appointment of the new headmaster in September 2021 who is working with his revitalised team to improve the school’s performance. This is what Ofsted 2022 had to say – “Until recently, leaders and governors have not been consistently mindful of staff workload and well-being. Leaders have not routinely been suitably challenged on the effectiveness of the school’s curriculum. However, many of these shortfalls have started to be addressed by the new governing body.” However, it is obvious that he would not have had time in 2021 to have changed things enough to affect the low 2022/23 intake – with parents making the choice in Autumn 2021. Now, in Autumn 2022 comes the LCC threat of closure, which will affect parents choice for 2023/24. This is hardly conducive to turning the school around !!
- The proposed closure of Queenway is only a part solution to the reduction in school places LCC estimated to be required in Aireborough at this current time. It would be better for all schools to work together to address the potential issue in a holistic and flexible way; especially as there are strong indications in population trends that this reduction in required places may well be temporary.
- Birth rate is not the only input for primary school place requirements, other inputs are new development in and around Aireborough. It is estimated that Aireborough still needs to build 300 houses before 2028 and more after that – that equates to 75 primary school places by 2028.
- Related to the above the needs for retirement home provision in Aireborough is now being addressed with several sites in the planning or build-out process. This will family homes for incoming families, and again this is likely to increase the need for school places, particularly in Guiseley.
- In addition, Menston is likely to require more primary school places with the large amount of housebuilding currently underway there. Many High Royds residents of Leeds currently attend Menston, but they may need to go to Guiseley schools in the future with the Menston increases. If the 153 Queensway children are dispersed to other schools this will put a strain on the ability of Guiseley schools especially to absorb the expected increase numbers in years to come.
- Nearly 20% of children at Queensway have SEND plans (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and benefit from the care and attention they are being given. These children require stability in order to learn and achieve. With the lockdown restrictions of 2020/21 it is estimated that many children are behind in their development and it is likely that the number of SEND children will increase in the coming years; this can already be seen in primary schools and is an upward trend. Local schools feel the Queensway proposal will make it more difficult for them to accommodate the extra care SEND plan children are required to have.
- According to the letter by Alex Sobel MP dated 8 October 2022 to Ms Julie Longworth, Deputy Director of Children and Families for Leeds. LCC have not followed the relevant process required for a potential school closure. This requires that measures are taken to address the issue outlined above that caused the fall in parents taking up places in the school over the past couple of years. In addition, to an impact assessment on the community if the school is closed.
Alternative suggestions to manage primary schools places in Yeadon and Guiseley area (Aireborough).
This school is not really a victim of low birth rate; it is a victim of poor leadership between 2018 and 2021 which led to a loss of confidence from people in the neighbourhood. The particular leadership situation that led to Queensway School not being a first choice for local parents has now been rectified. The recent Ofsted report also requires time for the ‘inadequate’ rating to be addressed . The impact of the closure will be detrimental to both the education of Aireborough children and the local Queensway area and is not in line with Leeds own strategic objectives for Placemaking, particularly 20min neighbourhoods. To this end, all conversations and reports of the school closing in July 2023 need to come to an end so that Queensway can go into recovery mode and rebuild. The current proposal is doing the exact opposite at a time when parents are choosing schools for the next academic year.
A. The school needs to be given a time period over which it will need to show it is meeting educational objectives and to re-establish itself as the first choice of more local children. With the current restriction on the use of the land for 8-10 years for education – this could be the time given for improvements to be made, whilst giving parents confidence to choose the school. As an interim measure whilst numbers are low at Queensway, it could be supported by having year groups doubled up if class sizes were too small. The extra rooms in the school could perhaps be rented out to a local school such as Green Meadows which is extremely full and lacking in extra the space at the moment.
B. As this is an Aireborough issue, and many schools in Aireborough come under the Aireborough Learning Partnership, then it seems an obvious alternative to work with ALP and other partners to find an Aireborough wide solution to school place flexibility, given the number of unknowns in the coming years – over and above birth rate. The projected loss of 60 places (which is far from certain) could be absorbed by the existing schools if carefully managed. There should also be an effort to maintain balance across the area to fulfil the Leeds Placemaking objectives in its Local Plan – 20min neighbourhoods to keep travelling distances down, and to reduce traffic congestion and the resulting air pollution.
C. An Independent assessment is required of the likely school places needed in Aireborough over the next 10 years, given all the local planning factors, and likely population trends – this should include Bradford MDC on the borders of Aireborough as schools are not mutually exclusive to the two local authorities.
D. The Academy Order in the recent Ofsted report is an alternative management scenario to the school being run by LCC. This should be explored, given all the data available.
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