A PETITION has been launched by Yeovil Liberal Democrats asking to shelve schools restructure plans.

The political party say Somerset County Council (SCC) has allowed the school funding crisis in Ilminster and Crewkerne "to spiral out of control".

The current plans were drawn up after years of debates between schools, academy trusts and Somerset County Council (SCC).

One reason for this is that Wadham Upper School is in debt to the county council, expected to be at £1.8million by September 2022.

By adding Year 7 and 8 provisions to the school, Wadham will provide a wider curriculum and so receive a better share of the available education funding.

But SCC are reminding people that "no decisions have been made" yet, as the consultation deadline ends on Wednesday (February 24). A final decision will be made on the schools restructure in March this year.

South Somerset District Councillor, Oliver Patrick, who wrote the petition, said loosing the three-tier system would be a "huge blow".

"What's worse is that the proposals put forward will not give our schools the long-term security they need.," he said.

"SCC's solution involves closing schools and bussing pupils from Ilminster to Crewkerne. They argues that this upheaval is necessary to prop up Wadham school, which will soon have an enormous financial black hole of nearly £2 million.

"But the council's own reports show that this solution would create new funding problems lower down at primary school level.

"In order to justify this change, SCC has branded our 3-tier system financially unsustainable. Yet the fact is that our schools are only 'unsustainable' because of a National Funding Formula that fails to deliver for rural areas like ours.

"After years of real terms budget cuts, schools across Somerset are out of pocket to the tune of £1.3 million. A staggering 133 out of 250 (more than half) of Somerset's schools are facing financial crises."

According to SCC's last consultation (held in November), up to 80 per cent of parents and carers expressed opposition to the plans.

Parents and headteachers are not happy about the plans – saying they will have a “detrimental impact” on all the schools in the system.

Despite parents concerns, SCC have said they will take “great care” if the plans go ahead to “preserve and enhance the offer for all pupils”.

“If the Council’s Cabinet decides to proceed, there would be 18 months to deliver a careful transition,” said a spokesperson for SCC.

“Particular care would be given to pupils whose schooling or transitions would be most affected. Pupils with additional needs and vulnerabilities would also be given special attention. There are many excellent aspects of schooling in the area.”

READ MORE: Last chance for public to have their say on Crewkerne and Ilminster schools restructure

Tessa Munt, shadow cabinet member for education at SCC and former Somerset MP, is on board with the campaign.

"These schools are rated Good and Outstanding by Ofsted," she said.

"We shouldn't be risking their stability now when parents and families need them most. SCC must press pause on this process."

Schools in the area will be affected by the proposals – including the closure of Misterton Church of England First School, Crewkerne, and the amalgamation of Swanmead Community School and Greenfylde Church of England First School in Ilminster.

Under the new structure, Merriott First School, Haselbury Plucknett Church of England First School, Ashlands Church of England First School, St Bartholomew’s Church of England First School are set to become primary schools.

And Wadham School in Crewkerne will become a secondary school, teaching children aged 11-19 instead of 13-19.

"I want to end by paying tribute to Ilminster resident Holly Phillips, who spearheaded community opposition to the Council's plans," add Cllr Patrick.

"Right from the start Holly has worked hard to galvanise concerned parents and residents across Ilminster and Crewkerne, and she coordinated a successful Change.org petition last year which gathered over 160 signatures.

"However, if we want the Conservatives at County Hall to listen then the response to the Liberal Democrat petition needs to be even bigger.

"I would urge anyone who is concerned about these changes to sign the petition before Wednesday 24th February."