The council’s ill-fated decision to close two small schools – Rumboldswhyke and Clapham & Patching – was overturned by central government in yet a further sign that the WSCC house is not yet in order. This is good news for our members and public services, but the whole process has been a stressful one for members and shocking waste of taxpayers money.
When the new Leader of the council tried to put all the blame on the Regional Schools Commissioner, as reported in the local press, the branch had to publicly respond, and did so with the following statement. Our statement was published in the Chichester Observer on 2 July.
‘Sorry’ really does appear to be the hardest word. The only ‘unnecessary distress’ caused by the now abandoned closure of Rumboldswhyke and Clapham & Patching schools was that caused by WSCC. The council could have listened to its Scrutiny Committee twice. If they had done so the schools could have been saved earlier. UNISON members at the schools were asking about academy status back at the initial HR Briefings for staff in February but no one was prepared to listen to them.
Staff welfare figured very low down the list of priorities during the botched process, if anywhere. Heads were left to do their best to support staff when they had to manage a school during a closure programme and also deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. It wasn’t good enough.
The letter to the Regional Schools Commissioner is an attempt to deflect a humiliation for the Leader. It would be far better to just say sorry.
Councillors are not yet paying enough attention to the Coughlan report into the workings of the council. They do not accept blame, show a willingness to learn from mistakes, or find it easy to work in partnership, with parents, staff or trade unions.
That has to change and trade unions and the community stand by for when there is a willing partner.