PLANS to relocate a West Wight primary school have descended into a ‘vicious’ debate with parents attacking each other on social media — leaving a community divided.

In a bid to deal with falling student numbers in the West Wight, the Isle of Wight Council originally proposed closing All Saints’ CE Primary School in Freshwater, and transferring pupils to nearby St Saviours.

However, after parents objected, a new plan was put forward — to temporarily close All Saints and transfer the 81 children to Yarmouth CE Primary School.

The Yarmouth school would then be closed around a year later, and relocated to an extensively refurbished All Saints site.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Freshwater parents protesting outside a parish council meeting.

Now, the Yarmouth community has backed a campaign to ‘Keep Yarmouth School in Yarmouth’ and revert to the original proposals.

Meanwhile, All Saints’ parents have thrown their support behind the new plans, which would see a primary school eventually return to their village.

The plans are due to go before the cabinet for a vote. Deputy leader and ward member for the West Wight, Cllr Stuart Hutchinson, said he would vote against them — branding the idea ‘quite foolish.’

Cllr Brading said: “The debate has got vicious. I will do what is right for the people of the West Wight.

“I will not be swayed by noise and shouting but I will be swayed by sound educational arguments.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Yarmouth community has started a campaign to keep the school in the village.

He said the leadership at Yarmouth school was open to exploring the new plans, and a consultation had received more than 420 responses.

However, Yarmouth co-chairs of governors, Carla Bradshaw and Mark Webber, said they could not support the plans as it did not address the increasing ‘crisis’ of surplus places and would cause significant disruption for the children.

The governors have called for a collaborative approach that would see all four schools in the West Wight take on the All Saints’ children.

Separate Facebook groups have been set up supporting both sides of the campaign. One parent described the other campaign as ‘bullies,’ while another called the debate ‘nasty.’

Isle of Wight County Press:

The plans would see the All Saints' site closed, and refurbished.

One parent posted: “It’s horrible making schools fight against each other like this.”

Another said: “It would have been nice to see everyone come together in the beginning instead of bitching about who’s got the better school and whose school does more for the community.”

Freshwater parish councillor Vix Lowthion has faced criticism online for supporting the new plans.

She said: “I’ve stopped reading some of it. I don’t necessarily back the option to move Yarmouth school but believe it is the best of a bad bunch.

“The people in Yarmouth did not take up our invitation to join in with the first phase of the consultation, and that was to their detriment.

Isle of Wight County Press:

The Yarmouth school, currently rated Good by Ofsted, would be moved to Freshwater.

“The Yarmouth parents have not kept their eye on the ball but I understand why parents are getting so passionate about the issues — it is about children and their education.

“Ideally I’d want to keep all schools open, because all schools are important to their community.

“But Freshwater is a big village and it should have a school. The proposals should keep all that’s good about Yarmouth but will move it to the place where all the people are.

“It is a compromise and nobody likes a compromise.”

She said she was concerned the children would be moved and the new school never built.

Isle of Wight County Press:

All Saints' has not been rated Good for more than a decade.

Freshwater has approximately 6,000 residents, compared with Yarmouth’s 800.

Heading the All Saints’ campaign, Carly Wyre-Nock said she had come under fire online.

She said: “I am just a normal 35-year-old single parent who is trying to do the best for my community and I feel like I am being attacked.

“We are being made to feel like the other schools do not want us, and what effect is that going to have on our kids?

“I think the proposal is a really fantastic one, that is in the best interests of all the children in the West Wight. If we all work together, we will do what’s in the best interests.”

Isle of Wight County Press:

Children planting trees at All Saints' school.

Leading the campaign to keep Yarmouth School in Yarmouth, Helen James said: “I do not want the community divided, and I think these proposals have the potential to do that.

“I think it’s important that people do not carry out arguments on Facebook and go through the official consultation and speak to the decision makers.”

Moving the children, in some cases twice, would ‘hugely damage’ them, she said.

Yarmouth mayor, Cllr Steve Cowley, has been vocal in his support for the school. He has complained to the council following one heated meeting, where he said the manner of officers was offhand.

However, Cllr Brading said he was happy with how officers conducted themselves at the meeting.

The consultation is open until Monday and can be completed online.

A meeting is behind held tonight at All Saints' School at 6pm.

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