Community rallies against proposed closure of centre

Oxford Mail: Windmill Primary School headteacher Lynn Knapp and councillor Roz Smith at the education centre. Picture: Antony Moore Buy this photo Windmill Primary School headteacher Lynn Knapp and councillor Roz Smith at the education centre. Picture: Antony Moore

THERE are fears a popular outdoor education centre could be closed as part of cuts at another local authority.

The Stansfeld Education Centre, by the Shotover Country Park in Quarry Road, Headington, used by a number of Oxford schools, is owned by Birmingham City Council which has identified it as an area to help save a total of £340m over the next two years.

Teachers and councillors in Headington have described Stansfeld, which offers kids residential courses and includes a five-a-side football pitch and adventure playground, as irreplaceable.

Head of Windmill Primary School in Margaret Road, Headington, Lynn Knapp said: “We are very concerned as we use it on a weekly basis.

“The benefits children get from it are huge. If it closed, it would be irreplaceable.”

Bethan Baldwin, senior nursery teacher at Headington Quarry Foundation Stage School, agreed.

She said: “We are really, really desperate for it to stay open.

“The children get a fantastic experience of being outdoors throughout the season and it gives them a chance to do things they don’t necessarily do with their families.”

County councillor for Headington and Quarry Roz Smith, a trustee of Windmill Primary School, has started a petition to keep it open, which she said hundreds had signed.

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She said: “It’s an excellent facility not just for local schools, but for children all across the country. It would be terrible if it closed.”

Birmingham City Council is holding a consultation on its outdoor education centres and the closing date is January 19.

Cllr Smith said: “Every council is dealing with cuts, but there are certain things that are necessary to keep.”

City Councillor for Headington Ruth Wilkinson said: “It’s an outstanding resource. We must do everything we can to preserve it so that our local children can learn about our natural environment.”

When asked about potential closure of the centre, Kris Kowalewski from Birmingham City Council, said: “The Outdoor Learning Service is running at a deficit of over £1m per year with a projected loss for 2013/14 of £1.21m and estimated repairs of £4.1m.

“With ongoing budget pressures too – we have a projected funding gap of £840m by 2016/17 – this is clearly not sustainable.

“Our resources must be focused on our core statutory services and protecting our most vulnerable children, so it is right that we consider looking to the market to provide other services that are simply too expensive for the council to run.”

Comments (1)

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3:20pm Fri 10 Jan 14

jockox3 says...

If it was philanthropically given, it might be worth finding out if the gift allowed it to be used for anything else. There was some cases recently where local authority schools that had been built on land given to the church for only education purposes that when the LA got rid of them went back to the family or heirs of the original donors ISTR. One thing is for sure, Oxford cannot rely on another local authority taking a million pound a year loss to provide a facility for Oxford's kids and schools.
If it was philanthropically given, it might be worth finding out if the gift allowed it to be used for anything else. There was some cases recently where local authority schools that had been built on land given to the church for only education purposes that when the LA got rid of them went back to the family or heirs of the original donors ISTR. One thing is for sure, Oxford cannot rely on another local authority taking a million pound a year loss to provide a facility for Oxford's kids and schools. jockox3
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