"WE want what is best for the children” was the collective cry of parents, residents and teachers at a meeting in Dulverton on Tuesday evening.
The town hall was packed out for Somerset County Council’s public meeting regarding a proposed shake-up of schooling in the town, which would see Dulverton Middle become a junior school and All Saints become an infant school.
The changes would mean children would have to go elsewhere for secondary education and lose out on the three-tier system of education offered in Dulverton.
A heated and emotional debate followed the presentation by members from the county council as parents, former teachers and youngsters expressed their concerns.
While the council says the school needs an additional £80,000 to stay open, a ‘Save Our Super School group’, fronted by ex-teachers and parents, claims it would cost £119,000 extra in transport alone to other schools in the area.
One student at West Somerset College told the meeting that travelling longer distances would make children more tired.
She said: "I am only just getting over how tiring the journey is, you cannot expect an 11-year-old to make that journey, they will be exhausted.
"Their homework will suffer and they won't be able to join in after school clubs, how can you think this is the right decision?"
There was an outcry of anger as the room was told by Julia Ridge, the county council’s strategic manager for early years and school commissioning, that Dulverton was one of the best performing schools in the area.
Calls of “why do you want to close it then?” were heard throughout the meeting.
Jan Ross, a former teacher at Dulverton Middle School, said: “What we don’t want is our community divided and that is what is already happening.”
However, while most parents expressed concerns at the thought of losing the three-tier system, there were parents in favour of the consultation.
Lindsay Smith, who has children at All Saints, told the County Gazette: “There have been a lot of emotive responses here tonight but we all want the same thing – the best education for our children.
That’s the point I was trying to put across but it was lost in the discussions tonight.”
Councillors are now inviting young people in Dulverton to have their say at the Youth Council Meeting in the town hall on February 24.
The county council is carrying out a consultation which can be found at the council's website.