A LEADING councillor has added her voice to calls for an end to the town’s schools being used as polling stations.
With just a week to go until the General Election, Worcestershire County Council councillors including Coun Liz Tucker welcomed a motion from Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald to end the ‘disruptive’ practice.
Bengeworth CE Academy and The De Montfort School are currently used as polling stations for voters in Evesham and face disruption to the normal school day despite remaining open for business.
Cherry Orchard First School and Abbey Park Middle School are currently used as polling stations in Pershore and Cherry Orchard will close on Thursday to allow residents to vote.
Coun Tucker said: “Many years ago when I was covering another territory in the county, I remember Flyford Flavell school being closed for a parish council vacancy in North Piddle.
“Seven votes were cast on the day and ever since then I have energetically supported the idea of finding alternative sites for polling stations,”she added.
Speaking at a meeting of the council last Thursday, Coun McDonald said: “Schools have long been used as polling stations, it’s so entrenched in the system no -one has thought to change it,” he said.
“Headteachers cannot refuse their schools to be used as polling stations. Of course the children are delighted they have a day off school but it’s a huge inconvenience for working parents when school is closed for the day.
“What really reeks of double standards is schools fine parents for unauthorised absences even it’s for something educational.
“The fine is imposed with the claim that every day in school matters. On this basis how can a local authority take a day off children’s schooling?
“Why do schools have to close on election day when there are numerous community centres, town halls and libraries which can be used instead?,” he added.
Coun McDonald said the education of children across the county should not disrupted because of elections and pointed to other areas of the country which had seen changes to polling stations.
“Cambridge City Council doesn’t use schools as polling stations, if Cambridge can do it why can’t Worcestershire.”
According to Worcestershire County Council, of the 376 polling stations across the county, 25 are schools but only 10 closed fully for the local elections on May 4.
In response, Coun Marcus Hart, cabinet member for education said the Conservatives supported the idea of abandoning the practice.
“It’s not so much about the schools being used as polling stations it’s about the schools being able to carry on as normal on the day,” he said.
“This is a huge inconvenience to parents and we would encourage the Statutory Returning Officer to speak to his district colleagues to move to a position where we don’t use schools as polling stations.”
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