FIRST STEPS: One of Merseyside’s oldest schools set to close
Sefton Council will meet next Thursday to consider the proposals, Image: Google Maps
The first steps towards closing one of Merseyside’s oldest schools are set to be approved next week.
Sefton Council’s cabinet is due to meet next Thursday to consider proposals to shutter S.t Teresa’s Catholic Infant School in Birkdale after 151 years.
It comes after years of declining pupil numbers, with a particularly poor Ofsted report in 2016 accelerating the process. A report to cabinet reveals that St. Teresa’s now has only 15 pupils on its roll, with 75 surplus spaces.
Next week’s meeting is set to kickstart a closure process which will take months, with a series of consultations taking place with the public and staff.
A timeline provided in the council report suggests the council could fully sign off on the closure decision next June, with the school potentially ceasing to operate in late August 2022.
Council documents said pupils will be moved to nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Primary School.
Parents were informed of the decision to close by a letter earlier in the autumn despite numerous attempts to turn around the school’s fortunes.
The letter said: “The Governors have taken this very difficult decision in the best interests of all our pupils, their families and the staff.
“The current low pupil numbers and continued uncertainty over the future of the school are making it extremely difficult for the school leadership and teachers to provide the highest quality education experience that the children deserve and that dedicated professionals like those of St. Teresa’s would wish to provide.
“The falling roll, compounded by the absence of any assurances about the school having a long-term future that could have provided the necessary encouragement to prospective families wanting to commit to St. Teresa’s for their children, has, over time, also created a budget with an increasing deficit.
“Having considered this very carefully, the Governors do not want this
situation to continue.
“Although our excellent pupils continue to work hard and do their best, they do this against a background of understandable parental concerns over the school’s future, increasing anxiety among the staff and no clear timescale over when decisions will be made by appropriate authorities.”
St Teresa’s was rated as ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2016 and a ‘good’ rating two years later did not stop a decline in pupil numbers, putting pressure on its finances.
The school had a budget deficit of just over £55,000 in April, though this is expected to grow to more than £130,000 by the end of the current financial year.
The deficit figure will eventually be covered by Sefton Council, with a cabinet report saying the financial position of St Teresa’s would be monitored prior to closure.
The report said: “The Council has sufficient provision assigned to cover the closing deficit, however losses in income from Traded Services will need to be met from with appropriate Service Department budgets.
“The overall financial position of the school will be carefully monitored up to the point of closure and will be reported to members when this is known.
“This will be a more financially favourable option for the council than the school remaining open and the deficit increasing which will have an impact on the overall Council finances.”
Sefton Council will meet next Thursday to consider the proposals.
Words: Nick Tyrrell, Local Democracy Reporter
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