A ROW has broken out over the future of Ilminster and Crewkerne schooling after plans were revealed to expand some school’s age ranges.

Earlier this year Swanmead School and Maiden Beech Academy confirmed plans to join Bridgwater and Taunton College multi-academy trust.

In last week’s News, the chief executive of the trust, Peter Elliott, revealed to the public for the first time that the trust has intentions to expand the age ranges of both of those schools if they are successful in their bid to join BTCT.

This could have an impact on the other schools in the area, such as Wadham School in Crewkerne.

The bombshell announcement came after a letter from Somerset County Council to parents referred to ‘rumours’ of the expansion plans.

Now, Somerset County Council has responded to Peter Elliott’s statement.

A spokesperson said: “We note the proposals recently announced by the Bridgwater College Trust to makes changes to the age range of schools that are due to join its trust in the Ilminster and Crewkerne area.

“This announcement by the trust is premature as Somerset County Council, with the support of the Regional Schools Commissioner, is in the process of reviewing the schooling arrangements in the area.

“The falling number of secondary school-aged children in the immediate area, and national funding arrangements, mean that the current system is not financially sustainable – with potential knock-on effects for the quality of education that the schools are able to provide in the future.

“The review will produce an appraisal of options, including the one proposed by the trust, taking into account a range of factors.”

The decision on whether to allow a change in age range of an academy sits with the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) following a statutory consultation process.

The SCC spokesman added: “It’s about identifying the best way to deliver a viable, sustainable high-quality school system that builds on what is already in place.

“It is expected that the findings of the review will be provided to the County Council by the end of May.

“The RSC’s Office and the Local Authority have made clear their expectation that the review’s outcomes will guide the thinking on what the most appropriate school structure for the area is, and that all schools are expected to engage positively in the review and implement any changes that come from it, for the good of the wider education system and the children in it.”

Last week, Peter Elliott, chief executive of BTCT, said: "We know that both Maiden Beech and Swanmead have submitted applications to join our trust.

“We believe as a trust that the current three-tier system is unsustainable moving forwards.

“We have put a lot of time and consideration into what is the best option, and we have arrived at the conclusion that we need to expand these middle schools, so add years 9, 10 and 11.

“The first schools will stay as first schools and the middle schools will grow.”