Affetside School HistoryThe Education Act of 1870 decreed that Elementary Schools be set up in areas where school provision was insufficient. A further Act of 1876 established the principle that all children should receive elementary education. School attendance up to the age of 10 was made compulsory in 1880 it was decided that the Chapel building should be used as a Day School and the first appointment of Headmaster given to Mr. John Wilson, who opened the new Day School on June 7th 1879. The Committee or Board was made up of James Nuttall, Absalom Ramsden, James Hamer, Peter Scholes and Thomas Hulme. Mr. Wilson continued with his dual role of Preacher and Schoolmaster for some years. About 1890 it became clear that the Chapel building was inadequate for a multi-class school so it was decided to build an additional room and at the same time raise the roof level. Money towards these extensions was raised locally through bazaars and collections and debts incurred were cleared by the early 1900's.From the beginning of the Day School it had been customary to clear all the desks aside on Friday night and prepare seating for the Sunday congregation. This was reversed on Sunday night in readiness for the Monday morning school opening. This procedure continued until 2003 when the school was closed by the Labour controlled Bury Council. Pupils in 1911Pupils in 1934The Fight to Save Affetside Primary School When the 'Save Affetside Primary School' campaign began in January 2002, there were 49 pupils at the tiny village school housed in the then Congregational Church, which also supported the school's closure. Affetside had been subject to closure rumours for many years, which had adversely affected its long-term intake. Like most schools, it was not perfect, but it was a small, caring village school, enjoying a community feel with an inclusive ethos that had been at the heart of Affetside since 1879. However, it was probably inevitable that it would be ear-marked for closure, viewed by administrators as an inefficient use of resources by the local authority, which seemed to dislike its border position with Bolton and objected to its use by the children of Bolton residents. It seemed no-one within Bury had the vision to address the falling rolls issue in a creative way. Meanwhile, neighbouring Bolton was consulting on the closure of nearby Longsight School which had fallen into special measures. There was a ready audience from across the border for places at the village school. Sadly, the school numbers had deteriorated without any real policy in place to address the issue. Indeed, there were accusations that the local authority had allegedly told parents the school was full, thereby actively contributing to the fall in rolls. However, little had seemingly been done to market the attractions of the school which included its location, its caring nature in working with children with special educational needs, the unusual sporting activities such as horse riding, and small classes which provided a sense of close belonging and support for all children. It was a failing that the falling rolls issue was not addressed earlier, as no school, especially one such as this, was invincible. The staff and governing body worked hard to maintain this supportive atmosphere for the children and had survived previous closure threats. When this particular proposed closure was announced, a meeting was called by parent, Dawn Robinson-Walsh who had three children at the school, to gauge parental views; the feelings were strong - that this school should be kept open as parents were happy with the education their children were enjoying, were cynical about LEA claims and motives, and parents should prepare to fight back. Any campaign requires leadership, so Ms Robinson-Walsh was suddenly and rather unexpectedly thrust into a leading role in what quickly became the long, hard fight against closure, a fight she could not have contemplated without the support of other parents, but most specifically Joanne Wilcock, a villager who had children not yet old enough to attend the school although one child ready to start there in what would effectively prove to be the last year of the school's existence. The Save Affetside Primary School Action Group (SASAG) was born. Parents were fired up by what they saw as sweeping statements from the LEA that parents believed were made simply to suit the LEA's argument and councillors who believed the closure to be a fait accompli. Villagers felt that Affetside had no other share of the services that other Bury children enjoyed other than the school, and all were concerned that the children and the community seemed to hold so little importance to the decision-makers with their strange notions of 'equity', who appeared, from their comments, to view Affetside as a bastion for the rich and privileged. Nothing could have been further from the truth, yet no sound educational reasons for the closure of the school were given; mainly the closure seemed to be based around the hobby-horses of particular councillors and the questionable predictive statistics of administrators and officers. At the time of closure the most recent Ofsted report had described the school as a good school offering good value for money and Affetside school was top of the KS2 league tables with 100% of the Y6 pupils achieving the expected level 4 or above.The fight to save the school became intensive for campaigners. They were not alone, however, as small rural schools were in danger around the country. Campaigners were told many times by many people that they could not win. In the end, this was the case, but campaigners remained proud to have been part of a fight against what seemed to be injustice and inequity, where parents decided not to sit back and be pushed around. There were two options: give in and be dictated to by councillors and council officers or fight back. There was no middle ground.Meeting Joanne Wilcock was the fuel to Dawn Robinson-Walsh's fire. Without her ability to remember facts gleaned from the many LEA reports, retrieve the evidence from the melee of mounting papers, question councillors and seek clarification on definitions from the Department of Education and Skills and other official bodies, the campaign would have failed a lot sooner. In the event, the fight surprised Bury MBC. It went all the way to the Appeal Court of the High Court in London, so the ordinary people from this tiny village school did not lie down and die easily! Everyone in the school helped the cause in various ways from fund-raising, publicity, badge and placard making and petitioning to, in mother of three pupils Wendy Louden's case, putting herself forward for the Legal Aid which enabled the fight to go as far as it did. Probably, at that first meeting, no one imagined quite how much work would be involved in fighting to save the school. SASAG had to get the local press on their side to win the publicity war, and were very grateful to the then Editor of the Bury Times, Bill Allen, for allowing the group a voice (though who, in all fairness, also allowed the local councillors to fight back through his newspaper's column inches). The ongoing debate made the Letters' Page compulsive reading, people following the latest political exchanges as they would a soap opera. Indeed the campaign even made BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour with the programme covering the then national penchant for trying to close rural schools. However, not only was publicity a consideration , but a true challenge in the form of creating a legal case capable of reaching Judicial Review, involving the dissecting of information sent by various local and central government departments. Not least of these was the definition of rural (which remains heavily ironic given Affetside's role in Bury's current Rural Inequalities Forum) and the government's presumption against closure of rural schools, but also other crucial issues like Council constitutionality, the issue of a flawed consultation process, procedures for School Organisation Committees (a relatively new entity put in place to make decisions on school closures and other school issues) local capacity assessments based upon methodologies which produced anomalies, and other interminable, verbose questions which needed analysis, disentangling and then explaining these in lay terms. It is hard to create a real sense of how much time the whole process of challenging officialdom, chasing definitions and working through documents word by word actually involved. The term 'David and Goliath' has been used to describe the fight and at times it felt very much like that but SASAG were impelled not to give up the fight until they hit the final brick wall.The original move towards legal action started when Joanne Wilcock, quite by chance, met an acquaintance and local barrister. From there followed excellent support, and pro bono (free) advice, an introduction to the Manchester University Legal Centre under the directorship of the formidable Dinah Crystal and ultimately pro bono/legal aid work through Leeds based Shulmans Solicitors and barrister, Mark Beaumont from Harrow, who pursued the case for the group to the High Court and the ensuing Court of Appeal where the case was ultimately lost on some legal technicalities.