Another schools protest is at the door, councillors

Daily Echo: BANNER MESSAGE: Protesters from Woolston School at the Civic Centre yesterday.      Echo picture by Stuart Martin. Order no: rad9e43a BANNER MESSAGE: Protesters from Woolston School at the Civic Centre yesterday. Echo picture by Stuart Martin. Order no: rad9e43a

DOZENS of parents, teachers and pupils fighting to save Woolston School from closure were turned away from Southamp-ton's council chamber because there was no room for them.

They came with stickers and banners calling for the 735-pupil school to stay open in a major overhaul of Southampton's secondary education system.

As they staged a protest outside the civic centre, up to 100 supporters from the Porchester Road school listened as councillors and education representatives on the council's scrutiny panel quizzed education bosses about the controversial consultation.

Campaign Campaigners from Grove Park Business and Enterprise College, Millbrook Community School and Oaklands Community School also attended.

It came just two days after Southampton's Cabinet member for children's services and learning, Councillor Ann Milton, outlined her latest proposals for the four schools in a bid to remove about 1,000 surplus places as birth rates decline.

On the west of the city it is proposed to close Millbrook in 2008 and transfer its students to Oaklands.

It is one of the 100 most improved schools at Key State 3,

Sarah Howells - Oaklands head teacher

Alternatively, both schools could close and a new school could open on the Oaklands site an option that would allow all staff to apply for jobs on an equal basis.

Meanwhile in the east, Grove Park could close completely by 2010/11.

A second proposal is to close both Grove Park and Woolston and open a new mixed school on the Grove Park site.

All four head teachers spoke at the meeting to put their own school's case forward.

Tony Cotton, head teacher of Millbrook, requested a proposal for the merger of Millbrook and Oaklands on the Millbrook site to be included in the next consultation.

"My staff and pupils felt anger and frustration at the lack of opportunity to put forward a coherent case on why the Millbrook site would be good for a merger," he said.

Oaklands head teacher Sarah Howells said her school was popular and over-subscribed.

"It is one of the 100 most improved schools at Key State 3," she said. "Why would a school such as this be considered for closure?"

Woolston head teacher Joanna Carter likened closing the school to "ripping the heart" out of the community.

"I believe passionately in keeping the school," she added.

Eric Freeman, Grove Park head teacher, described the consultation process as "deeply flawed".

"When all three proposals for Grove Park were taken off and replaced with one to close it, it's hardly surprising people felt so incensed," he said.

The scrutiny panel recommended Cllr Milton include a proposal for a merger of Millbrook and Oaklands on the Millbrook site.

Councillors also recommended another proposal be put forward for the closure of Grove Park and Woolston schools and a new school on the Woolston site, or another area.

Cllr Milton will announce her final proposals for a public consultation on June 19.

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