It is deeply regrettable that Medway Council today decided to close St John's and Ridge Meadow Schools in Chatham. The consultation was as a consequence of Government legislation which forces a review of schools who have falling rolls and both St John's and Ridge Meadow fell into this category. Nevertheless both schools achieve good results and were contributing to educational excellence across Medway: it is therefore a shame that this decision has been made.
I am not the kind of person that likes to play party politics with a child's education and so I have always made my representation on these proposals in private. I had made it very clear to the portfolio holder that I believe both St John's and Ridge Meadow to be good schools with a strong community base, something that is often under-estimated and devalued in our current education system. I firmly believe that if we don't get primary education right, then we end up playing catch up throughout the rest of a child's education. This is not only unsatisfactory from a learning perspective but also costly.
I was also concerned that these proposals are being considered at a time when Government spending on capital projects is being examined in detail and as we know from leaked documents earlier this week that spending could potentially be frozen in light of the huge national debt that this Labour administration has built up. I remain extremely worried that the schools will be closed on a financial promise to invest in other schools which may then not happen. If this were to occur, our children will end up being educated in over-subscribed schools with an infrastructure unable to cope with the demand.
I am deeply passionate about ensuring that children across Chatham are given the best chance in life and fundamentally believe that the way to do this is to provide first class facilities, the best teachers, and an environment where they can thrive. Both St John's and Ridge Meadow, in my view, have provided such a base and so I am not going to pretend I am anything other than disappointed with the decision today.