Merger plans for Peacehaven schools prompt opposition

STAFF and governors have spoken out against council proposals to merge Peacehaven Infant School with Hoddern Junior School.

Chair of the governors Jon Dilley told the Sussex Express they did not believe amalgamating the two schools had compelling benefits.

But East Sussex County Council stressed the consultation was on-going, that no decision had been made and that it wanted to hear the community’s views.

In a letter to the council, on behalf of staff and governors, Mr Dilley said: “We accept that the county policy for all through primary schools has considerable merit; however, in our specific circumstances the reasons and perceived benefits are not as compelling as in other examples.”

He continued: “The statistical evidence to support the policy is limited and when we sought clarification we were advised there was no evidence for schools in the same situation as us.

“There is no guarantee that attainment in the short to medium term will improve, in fact we believe that the fallout from the whole process is likely to prove destabilising for some significant time. Our latest Ofsted inspection was rated as good and that is imperilled by a fundamental shift in the way the school is run. This performance is all the more impressive when factoring in the starting point of the children when they join us.”

Parents have told the school many times that Peacehaven Infants is appealing because it is an infant school and focused on early years education.

Mr Dilley added: “We all agree that we should be focusing on the best outcomes for the children, however, there is in our opinion insufficient relevant evidence to support the purported benefits of amalgamation and therefore we do not see any benefit in instigating a process of public consultation, which ultimately we will not be able to support or endorse.

“The governors of Peacehaven Infant School therefore advocate the recruitment of a replacement head teacher at this stage but recognise that as the existing PFI contracts near completion and the opportunity to consolidate sites approaches the issue of amalgamation should be revisited.”

Cllr Nick Bennett, the council’s lead member for learning and school effectiveness, stressed the proposal was in line with the council’s policy of bringing together infant and junior schools to create all-through primary schools.

He said figures continued to show overall standards for 11-year-olds in East Sussex were higher for all-through primary schools than in junior schools where children transferred at the start of year 3. The new school created by the amalgamation would continue to operate on the two existing sites. To see the consultation documents and submit views visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay.