A school's decision not to hold a summer dance on a church green over safeguarding fears has been criticised on social media.

Charlie Barwell, executive headteacher of the Batt C of E Primary School in Witney wrote on the school newsletter: "Following conversations with some of our parents, we have made the decision to hold the dance on our school field.

"We understand that this might cause some disappointment with this being a longstanding tradition within the community but we are having to balance this with safeguarding our children.

"We have families where the potential for ‘anyone’ to turn up is a worry and concern and would cause anxiety for our children.

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"Having risk assessed this, we are not in a position to protect these children and so we will continue behind our school gates where not only can we assess everyone entering the building, we also have safe buildings, should need be.

"We appreciate your support with this as we navigate the ever-changing needs of our community."

The Summer 'May' Dance was due to be held on Church Green this week.

In past years youngsters from The Batt Primary School and St Mary's Infant School have assembled on the green for the celebration, which has been a part of Witney's history for more than 60 years.

The change of venue sparked debate on Witney Spotted Facebook group with one poster writing “Another good old Witney tradition gone".

But another user commented: "I can’t believe I’m reading this absolute rubbish about children not being on Church Green because it is ‘unsafe’ for the children. And what is ‘defining a threat’?! Indeed, what is ‘the threat’?! Talk about limp wristed, woke ideas!"

However, others sided with the school.

One wrote: "I’m sure that this isn’t a decision the schools have taken lightly.

"People would do well to remember that unfortunately not all folk can live their lives the way that they want to and I’m sure you’d agree the safety of our children is of the utmost importance. Don’t to be to quick to judge as sometimes things aren’t as simple as they appear."

And a second poster agreed: "It’s defining the threat, children can leave the school and the threat can be managed. Batts field is a secure area (more secure than the Church Green which is a public space) different locations can be managed as in who can attend an event and who can’t.

"I can clearly see that you and Addy are in a very fortunate position that unfortunately some families are not. I’d like to think that in the interests of these families and their children and the experienced staff tasked with making these tough decisions that we just support them instead of bashing the decision."

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But a parent with a child at the Batt School said they did not understand the decision.

They wrote: "They have in past, and will in future do lots of things in public, as they do with us as a family. This is a Witney tradition that’s been going on for 100 years? People love going to see it and the kids love doing it there. If St Mary’s are continuing to do it on the green, really not sure why Batts can’t. Children have school swim lessons where public can watch from cafe - that hasn’t been cancelled?!"

A spokesperson for the Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust said: "The summer dance is a school event and the Batt School has taken the decision to hold it within their school premises this year."


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