'Sadness' as mayor decides to close Chestnut school
CHESTNUT Primary School in Brixham is to close in September, Torbay mayor Nick Bye has decided.
The closure is due to a falling school roll and excess places in the town, and means the current 57 pupils will have to find new schools.
The Chestnut governors and head teachers in the town all backed the idea of closure, although some parents campaigned against it.
Making his decision after a 45-minute debate at a cabinet meeting held at Oldway Mansion, Mr Bye said: "Parents may not see this as the wisest decision but it cannot really be deferred or the agony prolonged.
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"It is the right decision to close the school in September."
Head teacher Glenn Page, who has been at the school (pictured) for 13 years and is due to retire this year, said some of the staff were tearful when he broke the news to them.
He said: "It is like having someone who is really poorly and they pass away. It drags on and on but when it comes it still comes as a shock.
"Everyone agrees we cannot carry on as we are but we still cannot think what life will be like without the school. It will be a real wrench."
Mr Bye has called on schools in the town to provide places for the children displaced, and for a study into the potential uses of the site.
There was majority support for the closure plan from school governors, ward councillors and cabinet members.
Parents and Conservative majority group leader Cllr Gordon Oliver spoke against closure.
Parent Susan Slade, representing Brixham Family Group and parents at Chestnut, said governors seem to have decided the fate of the school and added: "Closing the school will be the easy option."
Margaret Buckley, chairman of governors, said educational standards had been maintained despite a falling school roll but it now only had a three-class structure.
"We believe a three-class school is morally unsound and will result in a failing education system," she said.
She said governors are extremely distressed, sad and emotional at the prospect of the school closing and added: "But in the future we may not be able to provide the education the children deserve.
"We ask a firm decision is made and transition is made seamlessly."
Churston councillor and cabinet member Anna Tolchard said: "I don't think that the situation at Chestnut is sustainable and the status quo is not an option."
Cabinet member Cllr Dave Butt said Mr Bye has to listen to expert advice and he recognised the effort governors have put in.
"It must have been a horrendous situation for them. I just feel we have to listen to support our officers and their expertise," he said.
"It is with a heavy heart that we have to close this school."
His colleague Cllr Neil Bent said: "It is a decision no one really wants to take, but with the evidence before us we have to accept this."
Brixham councillor Mike Morey, who is not a member of the cabinet, said: "We are all saddened that we have got to this stage but listening to governors and teachers and the possible knock-on effects if it continues as it is I don't think we have an option."
Cllr Oliver, who is also not a member of the cabinet, said parents should be listened to first. There were alternatives, he said, and he questioned the need for speed.
He said: "I understand the dilemma and it is a difficult one but I want you to look at it in case it is a decision we will come to regret in the future."
Mr Bye said there are 270 empty places in Brixham schools which creates instability in all.
He added: "It is absolutely with a heavy heart I do this."