Parents continue to fight to save Northamptonshire village school already earmarked for closure

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Past and present pupils wrote letters to the Prime Minister and King Charles asking for their help

Parents at a Northamptonshire school have accused the Department of Education (DfE) of “parachuting” in new trustees to “finish the job” and shut down the facility.

Southfield Primary Academy in Brackley, will close at the end of the academic year due to a lack of pupils on the school roll, making it financially unviable.

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Families were told of the closure at the beginning of October and have been demanding information from the DfE and trustees ever since. Brackley Town Council (BTC) sent a list of questions to the parties involved, but called the responses they received in return “a lot of flimflam”.

Past and present pupils and guardians rallied together on Sunday, December 3, to save Southfield School.
Credit: Vivienne RhymesPast and present pupils and guardians rallied together on Sunday, December 3, to save Southfield School.
Credit: Vivienne Rhymes
Past and present pupils and guardians rallied together on Sunday, December 3, to save Southfield School. Credit: Vivienne Rhymes

Both the parent group and BTC asked the DfE for their business case and viability assessments through an FOI, which was restricted and hasn’t yet come to light.

Councillor Will King, who spoke at a meeting of Brackley Town Council on Monday, December 4, said that he had never seen a response with such “broadly-lacked detail” and wished to put on record the town council’s “disagreement with what’s been done”.

Vivienne Rhymes, a grandmother at the school, said: “I think there’s a good chance that these documents do not exist. The DfE tried to bully the previous trustees into closing the school and selected the current trustees to finish the job.”

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Despite setbacks, guardians and pupils at Southfield are still fighting to save their school and make their anger and disapproval of the plans heard.

Past and present pupils wrote letters to the Prime Minister and King Charles over the weekend asking for their help to stop the primary from closing.

One of the reasons submitted by the trust for closure was a lack of students- in September this year, the school had 129 pupils enrolled but a capacity for up to 428. However, a freedom of information request made to West Northants Council from a parents’ group predicts that the Magdalen area will see an increase of 205 primary pupils over the next five years.

There is planned expansion within Brackley with approximately 12,000 new houses to be built in the near future. According to the DfE, the decision to close included an analysis of these forecasts.

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Southfield Primary School received a ‘requires improvement’ rating in its latest Ofsted inspection in January 2022. However, parents believe that they haven’t been given a chance to show the amount of work that has gone into improving the school since the inspection.

Sophie O’Doherty, a parent at the meeting, said: “I think we should have Ofsted back at Southfield because we’ve been working really hard to try and raise the standard of education. I think if we get that on paper we can attract more people to that school.”

Children in key stage one have been offered an alternative place at Waynflete Infants’ School in Brackley, however parents have highlighted its recent ‘requires improvement’ rating, despite DfE guidance stating children shouldn’t be moved to schools rated lower than ‘good’.

Brackley Town Council noted the public reaction at the meeting and will make a response in due course.

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The DfE’s response to Brackley Town Council said: “The decision to close this school has been made through mutual agreement between the trust and the Minister. The DfE, ESFA, WNC and the trust continue to work closely to manage the implications of this decision.

“The school has been operating under capacity since 2012 and pupil numbers have been falling since 2016. We are keen to minimise the disruption to pupils at the school and their families and WNC’s admissions team are working with parents to secure places in alternative schools.”