Hundreds sign petition against moving Chichester school
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West Sussex County Council is considering moving Jessie Younghusband School to the new Minerva Heights development which is being built to the north of the city.
This would allow St Anthony’s Special School, which shares the site in Woodlands Lane, to take over the vacated buildings and enrol 50+ more children.
But the news has not gone down well with some parents.
Alexandra Robertson, who launched the petition, said: “Jessie Younghusband School is more than just a place of learning, it’s the heart of our community in central-north Chichester.
“The proposed relocation to Minerva Heights threatens to disrupt this harmony and inflict severe impacts on our local community.”
Ms Robertson said parents opposed to the move ‘wholeheartedly recognise’ the need for more provision for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) – but not at the expense of the primary school.
A number of issues have been raised by the 236 people who have signed the petition so far.
The most common asked why Jessie Younghusband coudn’t stay where it was as well as having a primary school built on the new development.
Ms Robertson said: “We want children with SEND to have access to the provisions that they require, Minerva Heights to get the school they need – and for north east Chichester to keep its only school.”
Road safety and a predicted increase in traffic was another concern, with several people pointing out that the attraction of the current school was that children could walk, cycle or scoot there, rather than having to go by car.
One commenter said: “Jessie is a true community school, where most parents walk their children in – something that will have attracted them originally.
“Moving means that most parents will have to drive, which is bad environmentally and will add further to the already significant traffic issues in Chichester.”
Ms Robertson agreed, adding: “This shift away from walking or cycling to school will not only reduce physical exercise for children and parents alike but also negatively impact mental health due to reduced outdoor exposure.
“In addition, it will reduce social opportunities for children and parents to mix as they travel to school, reduce opportunities for children to develop confidence and independence, and also reduce academic performance given that walking and cycling to school has been identified as having academic benefits.”
Encouraging people to share their concerns with Gillian Keegan MP, she added: “Let’s preserve our vibrant community spirit, protect our environment, and ensure that future generations continue enjoying what we have today.”
Jacquie Russell, the council’s cabinet member for children & young people, learning & skills, is expected to decide in December whether to put the proposals out to public consultation.
A council spokesman said: “We are aware that local residents may have concerns and if we proceed to consultation, we will be offering the opportunity for all to share their views and ideas.
“An entry has been included in our Forward Plan published on the county council’s website setting out the intention for a decision to be taken to consult on these proposals.
“We have directly contacted the schools involved, parents and carers of pupils, as well as the wider community, to ensure that everyone is informed about these proposals.”
To view the petition, log on to www.change.org and search for ‘Jessie Younghusband’.