Calls to protect Stedham School as ‘heart of village’

Stedham Primary School. Photo: Google Image
Stedham Primary School. Photo: Google Image

Sadness and ‘disappointment’ has followed confirmation that Stedham Primary School could be closed as residents urge the county council to keep the ‘brilliant’ school a part of the community.

West Sussex County Council has named the primary school in a list of rural schools that could be closed or merged under a ‘long-term’ viability review.

The Midhurst Society has written to the council, expressing disappointment and concern that the school, like others in the county, could be lost on economics and urged the council to ‘find savings elsewhere’.

It wrote: “We are aware of the tremendous strain felt by WSCC as budgets get pruned year after year but village life, such a vibrant aspect of West Sussex, is not just about economies of scale.

“Church, pub, shop, post office and school: these institutions give heart to a village.

“If we lose them the local community suffers and there is a knock-on effect on the wider community.”

It pointed to a world-wide survey by the OECD in 2013 that found village schools in the UK perform better than urban schools. Britain was ranked 30th out of 57 countries in terms of results achieved by urban-based pupils but was tenth in the world based on scores in rural areas.

The report noted that ‘a more settled pupil population’ allowed schools to be ‘geared towards the whole range of abilities, interests and aspirations’.

In its letter to the county council, the Midhurst Society included a number of comments made by members of the community in response to its Facebook post on the subject.

Many praised the happy feel of the ‘brilliant’ school and fond memories of attending as children and said its closure would be ‘a massive loss to the community’.

The county council is considering changes to five rural schools which have ‘exceptionally low pupil numbers’, with options including federation, merger, relocation, or closure.

It has promised a ‘detailed assessment’ of those options and that any changes made would be subject to a full consultation with teachers, governors, parents and the community.

What do you think? Write to us at midhurst@jpimedia.co.uk or to the Midhurst and Petworth Observer, Metro House, Northgate, Chichester, PO19 1BE.