Council leader says late intervention over academisation of two schools ‘caused unnecessary distress’

The leader of West Sussex County Council has written to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System to express his disappointment that the Regional Schools Commission did not intervene earlier to allow academisation of two local schools.

Parents and pupils at Clapham and Patching primary school
Parents and pupils at Clapham and Patching primary school

Paul Marshall, Leader of West Sussex County Council, has written to Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the School System, after two schools; Rumboldswhyke Church of England Infants School and Clapham and Patching Church of England Primary School, were told by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) on June 15 that they would have the chance to become academies.

However this only came after West Sussex County Council had completed a process to propose closing the schools because of concerns around their future viability; particularly around educational standards and offering a broad curriculum for students.

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Mr Marshall said: “The RSC made it clear to us they would not look at any academy proposals for schools unless we had gone through our decision making process for closure.

“In January they wrote both to us and to the South Downs Education Trust confirming that the RSC would not make any decision until after West Sussex County Council had completed its consultation process on this matter.

“Clearly any decision or discussion around school closure is both difficult and distressing for parents and teachers and is not something we would ever undertake lightly.

“Our concern and priority has always been the quality of the education of children in all of our schools.

“For the RSC to come in so late in the day and say the schools could remain open is confusing for parents and children and has caused unnecessary distress.”

The letter states: “We fail to understand why this intervention could not have occurred much earlier on in the process.

“This would have avoided the considerable stress on children, parents, carers, staff and neighbouring schools.

“This letter is to express our deep dissatisfaction about the process and the avoidable upset to staff, parents and carers.”

Mr Marshall called on the Department for Education to review their processes to ensure other parents and schools are not subject to the same issues.

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