Ripley School closed on 31st August 2018. These articles from Colin Cross were in various issues of the magazine. The first was in Issue 102 (Summer 2018) of the Magazine, which was published on 1st June 2018, the second in Issue 103 (Autumn 2018) and the third in Issue 104 (Winter 2018).
Original article in Issue 102 (Summer 2018)
Richard Ayears and I took this up on behalf of our respective councils (Ripley and Guildford) some weeks back. We joined with a group of concerned parents of pupils and former pupils of the school, namely The Friends of Ripley C of E Primary School.
The recommendation to close the school on 1st Sept was confirmed by Mary Lewis, the SCC cabinet member for education. That now only leaves David Hodge, the SCC Leader, to agree this in 4 weeks time(now only a week or so) for the process to be complete.
There is now only the legal route open to the Friends of Ripley School group, who still wish to oppose this whole charade that the SCC and Guildford Diocese have carefully concocted.The Diocese, apart from their routine involvement at the school, have the power to select or reject (as they have in Ripley’s case) the Multi Academy Trust (MAT) that Ripley must sign up to so as to survive, after their inadequate Ofsted report.
Funds raised to date and partly already spent on initial legal advice are around £4000 and we need probably £6000 to go through the full procedure of examining our case in terms of the Judicial Review process. It maybe that this initial stage of pre-negotiations will result in a settlement, thereby avoiding the need for greater actions and higher costs. If not then the remaining nuclear option is a full Judicial Review for which both parties are obliged to have special counsels and the whole thing is held in private.
The problem attached to all JR cases is that the normal procedure is that the loser not only pays their own costs but also that of the winner. Not fair? I know, but I don’t make the rules ……………
We are raising money slowly and will see how we go over this coming month prior to making any final call on the road we choose.
It goes without saying that this has been a shattering process to all that it has touched, parents, staff, locals but most of all the kids themselves as they can’t understand how this can happen.
In truth it should not happen and it is a truly shameful deceit that has been sprung on Ripley by both the SCC Education and the Diocese. They can never be trusted to do the decent thing again after plotting of the school’s closure.
If you can help by giving a donation, there is a website to go to…..
Justgiving for Friends of Ripley C of E Primary School
or if you want to give a cheque, please contact Jim Morris the Parish Clerk for Ripley.
GB Councillor for Lovelace Ward
Update in Issue 103 (Autumn 2018)
After much discussion, obfuscation and selective amnesia on the part of SCC the decision to close our school as from this September was taken on 17th July at County Hall. Last minute hopes of a rescue package involving a loose federation with Shere and Clandon schools were shattered by the intransigence of Guildford Diocese, who have played a shameful role in this carefully choreographed charade.
The Friends of Ripley Primary School were quick to get their legal counsel to issue a pre-action protocol letter to SCC on 24th July, outlining our case for a Judicial Review on several grounds.Since then we have waited for their counsel to respond and that response duly arrived yesterday, 8th August, in the form of an 11 page rebuttal and a further 72 pages of appendices.
This is now being studied by both ourselves and our counsel so that we can understand the legal vigour of their arguments and assess that against the residual strength of our case going forward to the actual review process.
On the assumption that we make this legal challenge there will be very significant costs attached if we fight on and lose as we will also be paying the SCC legal fees as well as our own. This could go to £20,000+ and we must be prepared to fund this worst case scenario should it arise.We are currently making contingency plans to both protect the individual Friends from personal liability and to then register as a charity so as to gain gift aid benefits.
So far over £5500 has been raised and your support has been very generously given,thank you. Any donations can be currently passed to Jim Morris at the Ripley Parish Office, and cheques made out to the Parish Council who are kindly safeguarding our funds. If we do not go forward, based on the latest legal advice, we will attempt to return any new donations as from the start of September. In the meantime the current funds are just covering the ongoing legal fees.
This is not over yet and it not an option to stand by and be robbed of a village heritage asset that was started in 1840. The fight is in capable hands and there is still much publicity to come about how and why we have got to this dark place.
Colin Cross, Borough Councillor for Lovelace Ward
Update in Issue 104 (Winter 2018)
As I write this we await any last minute news from Guildford Borough Council as to whether Surrey County Council have decided to appeal the decision to grant Ripley Parish Council the first refusal to purchase the school land, should they wish to sell it, as it is now officially classified as “an asset of community value”.
Hopefully they will accept the findings of the Borough Council in this matter and let the designation stand, but we will know soon enough.
The legal position regarding the application for a judicial review by the Friends of Ripley School against the decision by Surrey CC Education is a complex one. On the one hand the case against the authorities is a strong one on several levels but it boils down to proving that they did not correctly follow due process in the closure procedure.
There are several aspects that would point to this being the case and it is probable that the judge would find in our favour. However, his field of options then is limited and he could merely admonish SCC for their failings and censure the Diocese also for their part in the matter. Unfortunately, the most he would be likely to do would be to instruct SCC to repeat the closure consultation process – which would sadly not give us back our school in any meaningful way.
The most significant legal guidance we received was that even on winning the judicial review, no judge was likely to instruct SCC to re-open and re-staff the school for the minimum of 5 years it needed to give it a real chance. The underlying hope we had was to force SCC to reconsider its closure decision, under threat of JR proceedings and suspend their actions whilst alternative solutions were found. Sadly this did not happen and now we are seeking alternative solutions that will represent a radical departure from the previous status quo. We can only say that this is still far from over and hopefully the tide will turn in our favour.
Colin Cross, Borough Councillor for Lovelace Ward
Update in Issue 105 (Spring 2019)
As of late December “The Friends of Ripley Primary School ” officially became the school’s managing agents, working to maintain the school on behalf of the Ripley Church Trustees. Our aim is still to reopen the school but, in the meantime, we must protect the fabric of the building.
Guildford Diocese had control of the school whilst it was open and assumed that would remain the case when they closed it and walked off site with the keys. Fortunately we obtained good legal advice with what funds remained and a different story emerged. The land the school is on was left in trust to the Ripley Vicar and his churchwardens, as the trustees, in 1847, 80 years prior to the foundation of Guildford Diocese. It appears the Diocese were unaware of this fact when, by closing the school, they lost control of the grounds and buildings. They have since refused to hand over the keys, forcing us to change the locks and invoice them accordingly.
We have confirmed with Clare Grimes that the pre‐school can remain open whilst we’re in charge. (see page 21)
So looking forward, we still aim to re‐open the school for our local children and we have had a promising response from South Farnham Educational Trust, who run the nearby Raleigh School .
But there are still obstacles to overcome, one being that SCC have other ideas and still state there is no demand for local primary school places in Ripley, in spite of evidence to the contrary. They have other ideas and we are now arranging further discussions to put our case, with the help of Julie Iles, our local SCC Councillor.
There remains much to be achieved but the fight goes on and the Diocese have been given one almighty shock from which they may never recover their old arrogant manner.
We intend to keep the village informed of events on a regular basis.
Colin Cross, on behalf of the Friends of Ripley Primary School.