A group of headteachers have written of their 'utter dismay and disappointment', after Isle of Wight Council pulled plans to consider a controversial consultation, which could have led to the closure of Cowes Primary, Wroxall Primary and St Mary's in Ryde.

The headteachers have slammed what they called a 'significant lack of professionalism' from County Hall, in the latest twist in discussions over the future of primary schools.

Education panel members, who had been in discussions with the local authority about the damaging impact of surplus places, called the 'distress' felt by parents, teachers and governors on learning their schools could be at the forefront of closure plans designed to tackle the problem, 'unnecesary and very poorly managed.'

How did it all start?

The radical plan for the future of three primary schools, along with the closure of Chillerton and Rookley, was announced on Friday, May 26, the day before half term.

Isle of Wight County Press: St Mary's, Cowes and Wroxall primaries, which found themselves at the forefront of the consultation controversy.St Mary's, Cowes and Wroxall primaries, which found themselves at the forefront of the consultation controversy. (Image: Google Streetview.)

In a joint statement, the council and headteachers said a consultation could be launched to cut the number of empty seats in primary schools.

An Isle of Wight Council report revealed 213 vacant reception places in 2022/23 - the equivalent of seven classes.

It said funding to the tune of £856,951 had been lost as a result, combined with recruitment problems.

The number of primary school children will fall, from 9,200 in 2017 to around 8,000 by 2025, the report added.

Petition and reaction 

On May 30, the County Press reported a petition had been started to try to save Ryde's St Mary's Catholic Primary School from closure. More than 1,000 people have already signed it.

In a newsletter, Cowes Primary School head, Stephanie Praetig, said: "No decision has been taken and it is business as usual. We will continue to provide the best possible education for your child."

Wroxall Primary's head, Lynn Torrance, said: "This information will be unsettling. We remain fully committed to supporting the best outcomes for all children."


On June 2, following backlash, the Isle of Wight Council did a u-turn.

Cllr Debbie Andre, education lead, said the consultation plans would not be discussed today, June 8, after all.

Isle of Wight County Press: Sandown North's Cllr Debbie Andre, independent, is in chage of education.

She said: "We have listened closely and feel a different approach is necessary."

On Tuesday, Wroxall councillor, Rodney Downer, said the situation had been insensitively and extremely badly handled.

Today, the headteachers who originally called for urgent action to reduce surplus school places added their voices to those criticising the council's management of the situation.

They said they were promised positive change, 'challenging and difficult decisions for the collective good' and pointed to a report showing the need for some schools to close.

They said: "No headteacher would willingly choose for the school they lead to close, but each of us understand the closure of some schools is necessary, for the benefit of all children on the Isle of Wight."

Meanwhile, ward councillor for Chillerton and Rookley (and associate governor of the Stenbury Federation), Corporate Scrutiny Committee member, Suzie Ellis said: “I am disappointed and frustrated by this council’s continual failure to resolve the issue of pupil place planning.

"Headteachers shouldn't be in a position where they are having to spend valuable time constantly battling ineffective decision making when they should be focussing on the immediate and ongoing needs of our children."

The County Press has approached the Isle of Wight Council for a comment.