School victory for East Kent Mercury

The East Kent Mercury has won its campaign to save the smallest school in the county from closure.

A schools adjudicator stopped the closure plan after receiving written evidence from Mercury editor Graham Smith and hearing a speech from reporter Sarah Linney.

The Mercury launched Save Our School in December after Kent County Council said it wanted to save money by closing Ripple Primary, just outside Deal, which has 34 pupils.

Smith said: “We started the campaign after we were contacted by distressed parents and grandparents, some of whom were in tears.

“We had an initial meeting with some parents and governors at the Mercury office before we launched the campaign, and the response from readers was overwhelming.

“We kept hammering home the message that Ripple was being picked on by the LEA because it was so small, and that if the LEA got away with closing Ripple, then other small schools in Kent would be chopped. It was real David and Goliath stuff.”

When the issue went to a Government schools adjudicator for a final decision last Thursday, Linney was moved to say a few words in favour of saving the school.

She said: “I had a statement from the National Association of Small Schools and I was going to read that out, but a lot of their points had already been made – so I made my own points.

“I was speaking for all the people who have written in. The newspaper is in a good position to judge the level of feeling in the community.

“I said it boiled down to whether the council cared more about saving a few pounds or children’s education.”

Smith said: “I gave the campaign to Sarah to run as soon as she joined us in May and she threw herself into it with an enthusiasm which affected everyone in the office.

“Her screams of delight when the headteacher rang her to say the campaign had been successful could probably be heard in Ripple itself, which is three miles away.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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