Consultation on future of school near Worthing opens

Clapham and Patching Primary School (photo from Google Maps Street View).
Clapham and Patching Primary School (photo from Google Maps Street View).

A consultation looking for views on potential changes to a school near Worthing has launched.

Five small primary schools have been identified as potentially vulnerable by West Sussex County Council.

As a result, people’s views are being sought on options that are being explored which may include federation, merger, relocation, no change or closure, at the following schools:

• Clapham and Patching CE Primary School, Clapham

• Compton and Up Marden CE Primary School, Compton

• Rumboldswhyke CE Infants’ School, Chichester

• Stedham Primary School, Stedham near Midhurst

• Warninglid Primary School, Warninglid near Haywards Heath.

Richard Burrett, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “As the local education authority, we are responsible for ensuring that all of our children and young people can access high quality education, that schools attract pupils from their local community and that they are financially stable and sustainable into the future.

“This is in line with our School Effectiveness Strategy. It is therefore important we explore options for the five schools which have been identified as potentially vulnerable.

“It is important to stress that no decisions have been made and I would encourage all members of the schools’ communities to take part in the consultation.”

People can give their views online at www.westsussex.gov.uk/smallschools or by filling in a paper consultation form, which will soon be available in West Sussex libraries.

Public meetings are being held on the following dates (at each school unless indicated):

Clapham & Patching CofE Primary School, Tuesday October 8, 6.30pm-8pm, held at The Angmering School, Station Road, Angmering, BN16 4HH

Warninglid Primary School, Wednesday October 9, 7.30pm-9pm

Stedham Primary School, Thursday October 24, 6.30pm-8pm

Rumboldswhyke CofE Infants School, Thursday November 7, 6.30pm-8pm

Compton & Up Marden CofE Primary School, Monday November 11, 6.30pm-8pm

The consultation runs until November 25, 2019. The cabinet member will then consider the results and decide if a further consultation is needed on specific options for any of the schools.

At a children and young people’s services select committee meeting last month, several members raised concerns about the way the schools had been selected, claiming that some information provided was not accurate and that governing bodies had not been involved enough in the process.

Calls were made to set up a task and finish group to look at the issues in detail before any consultation was held.

However this was not supported by the majority of the committee and while it was decided a group would be set up, its work will run alongside the consultation.

Kate O’Kelly, Lib Dem county councillor for Midhurst, is campaigning to save small schools across West Sussex and still believes the process should have been halted before going out to the public as the assessments and criteria published were ‘full of inaccuracies’.

She said: “The consultation is now going ahead which will lead to deep anxiety and concern from parents, pupils, and teachers and residents of all these communities.”

Government policy is not to close small rural schools and instead to encourage federation, a policy that this is reflected in WSCC’s own Schools Effectiveness Strategy. However federation is a hard step for governing bodies to make.

Dr O’Kelly added: “Small schools sit at the heart of their our communities and are much loved. The partnership stage of moving towards federation needs more support from the local authoritise.

“Schools should be given more time to make and develop these partnerships rather than be forced into a consultation on its future, which should be a last resort.

“The council appears to have no understanding about the impact of threatening to close a school on the parents, pupils, teachers, governors and the wider community and it is very disappointing that WSCC have proceeded with the consultation before the debate on small schools and without increased support for federation.”

Dr O’Kelly has submitted a motion on the future of small schools to full council at West Sussex County Council to be debated later this month.