IN VIDEO and PICTURES: Parents 'stand united over threat to children's education' as The Coseley School faces closure
'We stand united' - this is the defiant pledge by angry parents desperate to save their children's school from closure.
Campaigners have vowed to continue to fight against plans to shut the The Coseley School - as it emerged it could face a financial deficit of up to £1million by August 2017.
Dozens of parents and pupils took to the steps of Dudley Council House to protest before councillors met to debate the future of the Henne Drive school.
They had been stopped from sitting in on the private session of the cabinet meeting, where it was agreed to hold a public consultation, because of the discussion of financial information.
But a question and answer document was released afterwards which revealed the school's precarious financial situation for the first time amid falling pupil numbers.
The report said: "There will be a small deficit at the end of this financial year, however, if no action is taken, by August 2017 the school is likely to be up to £1million in deficit. The amount of money the school receives is controlled by the numbers of pupils in the school."
The document stated that a 'phased closure' of the school, which currently has 528 pupils, could also be an option.
Pupils in years 7, 8 and 9 would be moved elsewhere, with year 10 staying put.
Parent Michaela Garbett, who organised a petition against the closure which has gained more than 1,000 signatures, said believes council should have been more transparent in their discussions.
"Even with a phased closure it will still effect me as my daughter is in Year 8. It is disgusting that they couldn't have taken everything into consideration instead of just shocking us with the news that it was up for closure.
"The protest showed community spirit and that we stand united in the face of this," she added.
Councillor Ian Cooper, cabinet member for children's services, said that a 'dramatic decline' in pupil numbers was also predicted over the next few years.
He said: "Proposing the closure of the school is very much the last resort and not something we have taken lightly.
"During recent years it has experienced a dramatic decline in pupil numbers, which are forecast to drop even more over the next three years, as well as results below the national minimum standards.
"We know the school has worked hard to try and raise attainment but unfortunately all these factors have led us to take this action.
"These are some difficult decisions being made but I can reassure people that children's educational interests are paramount to any decision in line with our role as corporate parents."
Coseley East Councillor Star Anderton, who attended Monday night's protest, raised concerns over the consultation process - fearing that a decision had already been made.
"It is a complete sham. What is the point of holding a public consultation when it appears, that the decision appears to have been already made.
"So much for democracy in Dudley. Where are the kids, from the 900-plus homes being built in Coseley now going to go to school.
"It's totally ridiculous. Closure of the school makes no sense at all at any level. This school is at the heart of the Coseley community."
Council bosses say that they have already identified alternative schools with spare capacity which could take pupils if the decision to close is taken.
People will have until April 5 to have their say on the future of the school.
The consultation is available via the homepage on the council's website at www.dudley.gov.uk
There are also planned meetings with parents and staff and other interested parties as part of the formal consultation.
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