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Bob Russell (Colchester, Liberal Democrat)

On Monday 19 May 2008, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, in response to a question from me about the future of the Thomas Lord Audley and Alderman Blaxill schools in my constituency, told the House:

"Essex county council has explained that its preferred approach is to build on the existing partnership with Stanway school and to pursue a trust. We will support the council in its decision".—[ Hansard, 19 May 2008; Vol. 476, c. 3.]

It transpired that Essex county council had wilfully misled the Secretary of State and the schools Minister, whom I met the next day. It had assured both Ministers that the intention was that the Alderman Blaxill and Thomas Lord Audley schools would continue. Today, Essex county council broke its pledge, which the Secretary of State recorded and the schools Minister confirmed, by agreeing to shut the two schools.

The petition, in the name of Councillor Lyn Barton, is also signed by 492 other residents, predominantly from the Berechurch ward, but also from other parts of Colchester, including Old Heath.

The petition states:

The Petition of various pupils and former pupils, parents, residents and others,

Declares that Thomas Lord Audley School has a special place in the life of the Berechurch ward community in accordance with the Government's policies towards promoting sustainable communities; further declares the petitioners' opposition to proposals by Essex County Council which would result in the closure of the school and the bussing of pupils to a school some distance away at considerable financial cost to the parents.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons call on the Government to stop Essex County Council from closing Thomas Lord Audley School; to ensure that all necessary support, financial and otherwise, is given to enable the school to improve its performance and to continue to be an integral part of the community in the years ahead; and to implement "Option 4"—

that is fully in accordance with the wishes of Colchester borough council—

for secondary school provision in Colchester which would include Thomas Lord Audley School operating in partnership with Alderman Blaxill School and the Stanway School.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

[P000342]