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Save The Parks School group raises £5,000 for legal challenge against closure of Oakham nursery

A group set up to support special needs education has raised £5,000 for a legal challenge against the closure of a school.

Antonia Garnett-Wright from the Save The Parks School group in Oakham announced that the target had been met, and praised the fundraising efforts of everybody involved.

“We now have the money needed to take our challenge against the closure of this much loved and much needed facility," she said.

Antonia Garnett-Wright
Antonia Garnett-Wright

“Rutland County Council made a mistake, and clearly the people of Rutland agree with us that closing a special educational needs nursery like The Parks is not what is wanted.

“Thank you to everybody who supported us, and now it is back to court and the next step in our fight to save the school.”

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The Parks School in Burley Road, Oakham, was Rutland’s only state-maintained special needs school and had received an ‘outstanding’ rating in its last two Ofsted inspections.

A protest was held in November
A protest was held in November

It was closed by the council in January to cut costs but the group was unhappy with the process.

Mrs Garnett-Wright said: “The public consultation that the council undertook was flawed because it did not take into account the petition signed by more than 4,000 Rutlanders, representing 10% of the entire population of the county.

“Additionally, we parents were not given the correct opportunity to speak with those who were employed by the council as independent examiners into the matter.”

A young protester
A young protester

With the legal fees secured, the group will go to a judge who gave them leave to apply for a judicial review, meaning the council’s decision could be recalled for further review, and could even be reversed.

A Rutland County Council spokesperson said: “Rutland County Council welcomes petitions as one of the ways that people can share concerns and highlight important issues. We have a formal process for receiving, reviewing and considering petitions and can guide people through this in advance, so they know how to collect and submit signatures.

“Petitions can be presented to meetings of the full council or committees of the council, including the strategic overview and scrutiny committee. In order for a petition to be considered at these meetings, we need to have written notice with specified details of the petition and signatures at least 10 working days before the meeting date.

“The petition relating to The Parks Special Nursery provision in Oakham was received on Sunday, January 14. This was after cabinet made a final decision regarding the future of The Parks Special Nursery on Thursday, January 11. There is no way for full council or a committee to reconsider or change a cabinet decision as a result of a petition, once that decision has been made. Therefore, the petition cannot be presented at a future meeting of the full council or a committee.

“Officers who oversee the petitions process and organise the council’s calendar of public meetings have been in frequent contact with organisers of The Parks petition since November 23, 2023 and responded promptly to all questions and enquiries, providing clear guidance on the council’s petitions process.”

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