County councillors have backed controversial plans to close Folkestone’s Pent Valley School.
Members of Kent County Council’s backbench education cabinet committee voted in favour of a recommendation to close the school and a final decision will now be taken by the politician in charge of schools, the cabinet member Cllr Roger Gough.
Opponents of the closure lobbied councillors as they arrived at County Hall but their hopes of a reprieve were dashed after a lengthy debate.
KCC education director Patrick Leeson said he was reluctant to close any school but the authority had been left with no viable alternative.
He cited dwindling numbers of pupils, a growing budget deficit and poor teaching and management as key factors.
Despite the efforts of the Swale Academy Trust, improvements had not come quickly enough, he told the meeting.
“We are of the view that results in 2016 would be poor and if Ofsted inspected, the school would be found to be failing. If so, that would require it to become an academy,” he said.
“As a school is it has proved less and less popular and performance has plummeted to an unacceptable level.”
He said the school’s finances were poor, with a £2m deficit. “If the school were to continue, I would expect the deficit would be £4m by 2017.”
Pupils face being transferred to either Folkestone Academy and Brockhill Park.
Mr Leeson said both were good schools who were able to offer a wider curriculum to students and that teaching at both was “significantly better” than at Pent Valley.
Cllr Roger Truelove, Labour spokesman, said he was concerned the alternative schools in the area could mean lengthy journeys for children and create difficulties for parents.
“We know that it will be re-opened as a free school and I cannot find a more convincing argument against closure than the fact that it could become a free school" - Labour spokesman Cllr Roger Truelove
He questioned whether the alternative schools were academically any better. “People have raised the issue that if Pent Valley is failing is Folkestone Academy any better?”
He added: “We know that it will be re-opened as a free school and I cannot find a more convincing argument against closure than the fact that it could become a free school.”
Liberal Democrat spokesman Cllr Martin Vye said that if the school was to close, pupils should be given help with transport costs given they faced longer journeys.
Others complained that the closure was a fait accompli and the council was ignoring the views of parents.
If agreed by the cabinet member for education Cllr Roger Gough, closure of the school would happen in August 2017.