ANGRY parents and governors have had their first encounter with officials behind plans to axe their schools.
A meeting at Bishop Heber High School, Malpas, on Tuesday saw Cheshire County Council Children's Services officers field a barrage of questions from parents of Huxley and Hart-hill CE Schools.
Harthill mum Julie Bebbington believes the school has never been given the chance to meet council expectations.
She said: 'The battle is over numbers here. But parents have started their own toddler group.
'There are five children that want to start in September 2008 and five more the following year. Numbers are growing.'
Eric and Jane Enston went further, blaming long standing rumours about closure for artificially depressing the numbers of children enrolling.
Mr Enston said: 'If we could say today the school's future is safe, we would have children pouring back in.'
But lead officer for the Transforming Learning Communities review Vytas Krivinskas provided little comfort for these families.
He said: 'It is a fact that, year on year, they have seen numbers dropping. We've no numbers to substantiate their claims that more children are coming through and there is a surplus of 80% so even reducing this to 50% would still be a big issue we would need to address.'
Jane Nicholas, whose two daughters attend Huxley, said: 'We want to maintain the heart of our community and moving seems to be the complete opposite of that.
Fellow parent Michelle McLeary added: 'Children do help bring the community together. Future children will be forced to leave the village and this will damage what we have.'
But Mr Krivinskas said: 'If you look at the make up of the school, many of the 26 pupils come from other areas.'
He argued this meant redirecting pupils to another school might not necessarily undermine the community.
Anger over closure plans
PARENTS, governors, teachers and grandparents turned up at Chester Town Hall to voice protests over school closure plans.
Woodfield Primary and Boughton St Paul's Nursery and Infant School - both threatened with closure under the Transforming Learning Communities (TLC) review - were particularly well represented at the drop-in consultation on Wednesday.
Cheshire County Council Children's Services officers fielded questions and complaints about the plans during the four hour meeting.
Woodfield parent Glenn Edwards said: 'It is galling at the moment. I feel this is about finance and it is not being done in the best interests of the kids and the community.
'We're trying to stay positive but it's hard. It seems like the decision has already been made.'
Teachers from Woodfield explained that they were 'shocked' by the announcement that their school would face closure.
Judith Darby, who has taught at Woodfield for 18 years, said: 'We feel there were other options that would be more suitable for the community and the children.
'It's about the children first of all, it's not about us, we're portable.'
Her colleague Pat Healey said: 'It came as quite a shock. We feel the school has been misrepresented by the information that has been put out - we have space for 390 pupils at present.'
James Turner has children at Boughton St Paul's and has written to the county council to express his concerns.
He said: 'It is a really super school. We live in Vicars Cross now, but we sent our kids there when we lived in Blacon. We don't want it to be closed.'
Another concerned parent from Boughton St Paul's said: 'We feel it's all about money and we will fight against closure.'
The lead officer for TLC in Chester Vytas Krivinskas denied that the review was about making cuts.
He said: 'This has nothing to do with cutting the budget.
'The schools related budget is ring-fenced by the government - there's no hidden agenda.
'There are 1,200 surplus places in the area under review - if we could move some of the funding necessary to sustain surplus places and invest it elsewhere that must be better.
'Of course I have sympathy with the people affected by these proposals. I visited each of the schools. But we are in a position where we have to take a difficult decision.'