UPDATE 22 NOVEMBER 2022: We are more than pleased to announce that Leeds City Council announced at lunchtime today that the closure process for Queensway Primary School will be halted; the school closure paper will be withdrawn from tomorrow’s Executive Board. You can find details of the letter from LCC here. Praise must to to everyone who worked so hard for this decision. From Save Queensway Primary School Action Group, through the local ward Councillors who raised the issue in their White Paper and the debate last week in Full Council, to the many different people who have worked behind the scenes, and the very many residents and teachers who responded to the initial consultation. If nothing else, the children at the school have learnt a valuable lesson in standing up for themselves. There is still an issue to be solved and we will write more about that when we have more details.
At a meeting of the full Leeds City Council on 16 November, the children, parents and staff of Queensway Primary School, Yeadon gave their all in an effort to save the school from closure; as Otley & Yeadon councillor Ryk Downs strove to get a vote to halt the closure process and to think again about alternatives to the Aireborough school issue. But, to no avail; Council instead voted to write to the Government for more power to alter school numbers and for more money for SEND provision – none of which will help Queensway.
There is a very useful video of full Council meeting here
1) The delegation from Queensway School presents their case on behalf of the school at 0.18.49
2) The white paper presented by Cllr Ryk Downes proposing that the closure process be halted for a rethink, which was supported by an amendment by Cllr Paul Wadsworth, followed by a heated, informative debate is at 3:57.47
Full Council Vote on Queensway School
This needs a little bit of explanation as it was the key way councillors working together could throw a lifeline to Queensway School – but in the end it failed.
Cllr Downes (Otley & Yeadon) proposed a motion in his White Paper, sponsored by the Lib Dems, that
“This council is concerned that the proposed closure of Queensway School in Yeadon will only partially address the challenge of low pupil numbers in Aireborough and that the current problem is an Aireborough wide issue, that should be dealt with holistically. Closure of Queensway would seriously impact on SEND pupils and disrupt the education and mental health of pupils. This will have an additional impact on the JCC and future provision for the whole of Aireborough. Council calls on officers to halt the process of Queensway’s closure and look for a full solution for Aireborough instead.”
This motion then had a proposed amendment put by Cllr Paul Wadsworth (Guiseley & Rawdon) sponsored by the Conservatives that
After “disrupt the education and mental health of pupils”, insert: “including pupils and schools in Guiseley and Rawdon Ward.”
After “Aireborough instead”, insert: “which, following comprehensive consultation, can command the confidence and support of all affected local schools, families, and councillors of the wards affected.”
However, a second amendment was then proposed by Cllr Jonathan Pryor (Labour’s Deputy Leader of Council and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education) as follows: Remove all after “This Council” and replace with: The rest of the text can be read here but concluded:
“Council remains dismayed at the continued failure of the Conservative Government to adequately fund education and in particular the failure to provide suitable funding for SEND provision.
Council calls on Government to reverse years of real terms underinvestment in education, return education powers to local authorities and give schools and pupils the guarantee of proper funding to ensure every child gets the education they deserve.”
In voting, Cllr Wadsworth’s amendment did not succeed, but the next vote on Cllr Pryor’s did. Cllr Pryor’s successful amendment therefore became the white paper motion thus destroying this crucial opportunity to halt the Queensway closure process and explore alternatives solutions to the Aireborough schools issue. When this now revised motion was put to a final substantive vote it was passed along party political lines. The closure process moves on another stage next week, see below.
In the vote most local ward Cllrs present, Paul Wadsworth, Paul Alderson, Ryk Downs and Colin Campbell all voted together for Cllr Wadsworth amendment and against Cllr Pryor’s amendment. They therefore supported the lifeline of halting the closure process . Unfortunately, Cllr Eleanor Thomson, voted against Paul Wadsworth amendment, and supported Cllr Pryor’s amendment and the final version of writing to the Government for more power and funds. (The voting of all councillors is a matter of public record and is here in the draft minutes.)
School Closure Process
There are a number of things that must be done if a school closure is looming as a possibility, this letter from Alex Sobel MP outlines some of them. Once the closure becomes a proposal, which Queensway did in September 2022, then this is the process Leeds City Council are now following.
- i) 26 Sept 2022 – Start of public consultation on the proposed closure of Queensway school. This included information sessions where questions can be asked and debate had. It should be noted that before this the ward Councillors of Otley & Yeadon, and Guiseley & Rawdon had NOT been consulted at all.
- ii) 16 Nov 2022 – Decision taken by Full Council in a vote NOT not to halt the closure process underway in order to think again about alternatives
- iii) 23 November 2022 – LCC Executive Board will decide whether to move on to the next stage of closure process based on officer report on the above consultation. The report is here Item 10.
- iv) January 2023. – If Ex Board decide to continue the process (and why would they not given Full Council vote on 16th Nvember?) then a statutory notice of closure is issued.
- v) 6 Jan – 3 Feb – There is then a further statutory 4 week public consultation on the closure of Queensway school at the end of term July, and discontinuing of the site on 31st August.
- vi) 15 March 2023 – A FINAL decision is taken on the closure by Executive Board after an officer report on stage v).
- vii) End term July 2023 – School closes to pupils.
- viii) 31st August 2023 – Site discontinued and decisions taken about what happens to the land. See the consultation report here point 18.
So a final decision will be made in March 2023, but given the vote at Full Council rejected halting the closure process for a rethink , given the debate and consultation to date, what is there that would change minds between now and then? We await the next step in the process !!