OXENWOOD CLOSURE: Wiltshire Council ignoring interest from organisations wanting to continue Oxenwood's work for school children
Marlborough.news understands that there are two organisations with proven records in the field that are keen to take over the Oxenwood Outside Education Centre and to continue its work.
However, Wiltshire Council have apparently ignored this possibility and are simply keen on selling the buildings and land to help support their current budgetary problems.
This makes the closures appear to be simply about raising cash - in the face of educational needs. Though quite how much Oxenwood will be sold for is another matter. The buildings are close to the road which divides them from most of the land.
We have been unable to speak to those directly connected with the centres and their closure to confirm this. But we are sure of our source. And it was clear from the debate on the closures in the Council's cabinet that Conservative group councillors had no interest in continuing the work of the Oxenwood and Braeside centres.
Oxenwood, which is twelve miles south of Marlborough, has space to sleep 38 pupils and seven leaders - about a class at a time. They also welcome schools on day visits. The staff undertake outreach and community work visiting schools throughout the year - and are a welcome presence at many school fêtes.
A former village school, Oxenwood stands in just over an acre of land and has quick access to woods and the canal. Their charges per pupil are kept as low as possible - enabling them to host about 4,500 pupils a year.
As one of the smaller outdoor education centres, Oxenwood's unique selling point is the provision of bespoke programmes to fit a school's requirements - and in supporting primary school history projects.
The grounds contain the replica of an Iron Age round house (largely built by young people) and a land-locked Viking-type boat. Both are popular elements of Oxenwood's offer. And now they are busy building a Hobbit House.
Oxenwood village school was built in 1904 in response to the Education Act of 1902 which consolidated elementary education. The school closed in 1968 and the following year the buildings became a field centre.
It used to be owned by the Church of England and it is not clear when the ownership was transferred to what was then Wiltshire County Council - and so passed on to the unitary Wiltshire Council. It is uncertain whether the Church of England placed any conditions on the future use of the school buildings when they transferred them to the Council - though it is noted that the Council continued to use them for educational purposes.
In their justification of the closures, Wiltshire Council has claimed that only 30 per cent of Wiltshire schools (local authority and academy schools?) use the centres. Supporters respond that this figure is 'complete spin'.
Oxenwood caters for school children from within Wiltshire and from London, Hampshire, West Berkshire, Swindon and Oxfordshire - bringing money into Wiltshire to support the centres. And many Wiltshire pupils already go to centres outside the county.
However they arrived at that 30 per cent figure, supporters say that if it is true it shows a distinct lack in the breadth of education offered under Wiltshire Council's education regime.
Our thanks to those who supplied photos of the Iron Age round house etc.