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Opt-out majority is just one vote

A Derbyshire school looks set to opt out on the narrowest of majorities - just one vote. Parents were split 109:108 on an 87 per cent turn-out in favour of grant-maintained status for Chinley primary, on the edge of the Peak District, writes Clare Dean.

Tensions have heightened, however, over the one spoiled or blank paper that was returned in the ballot over GMS for the 190-pupil school.

And while Stuart Smith, chair of governors, draws up the proposal to take the school out of local authority control, opt-out opponents are looking for irregularities in the ballot with a view to staging a re-run. They claim to have found at least four parents who were not issued with ballot papers, and one said: "This has really divided the village."

Grant-maintained status was raised by governors before Christmas as a possible solution to overcrowding. Average class size is in excess of 30. "With only six classrooms we are bulging at the seams," said Mr Smith. "We need a seventh classroom."

Derbyshire told the school it could not afford to provide an extra classroom, he said, and the Pounds 60,000 it quoted was beyond parents' means.

Governors voted 8:2 in support of the GM ballot while staff, according to Mr Smith, backed it unanimously. But Martin Bisknell, one of two local authority-nominated governors, who was against the school going GM, said: "There is no real clear mandate for the school opting out."

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