Two Chichester schools could face closure

Two schools in Chichester could be closed down as the council reviews their long-term viability.

Compton and Up Marden school in Chichester. Photo: Google Image
Compton and Up Marden school in Chichester. Photo: Google Image

West Sussex County Council confirmed it is considering changes to five rural schools in the county which have ‘exceptionally low pupil numbers’, including Compton and Up Marden school in School Lane, Compton, and Rumboldswhyke School in Rumbolds Close, Chichester.

The options being explored include federation, merger, relocation, or closure, the council said.

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A detailed assessment is set to be carried out and any changes made would be subject to a full consultation with teachers, governors, parents and the community, according to the council.

Rumboldswhyke school in Chichester. Photo: Google Image

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “Our School Effectiveness Strategy 2018-22 sets out the need to raise education standards and support schools to be sustainable.

“We have been working with schools for some time to discuss future challenges and we are therefore considering changes to a very small number of schools, with exceptionally low pupil numbers, which may include federation, merger, relocation, or closure.

“These will be based on detailed assessment of the long-term viability of these schools when assessed against Department for Education statutory guidance.

“We know this will cause some uncertainty.

“It’s important to underline that no decisions have yet been made and any changes will be subject to a full consultation with teachers, governors, parents and the community.”

In its most recent Oftsed report, Rumboldswhyke School, which has 72 pupils, was rated inadequate by inspectors.

The report stated that there had been ‘considerable turbulence’ within the school over the years and said the quality of teaching needed improving.

However, it also noted that parents were ‘highly positive’ about the school and that provision and outcomes for children in the early years were good.

In a statement on its website, the school said it was ‘very disappointed’ with the judgement from Oftsed and stated that it had already started to address the concerns raised in the report.

Compton and Up Marden school, which has 85 pupils, was told to improve by Oftsed following an inspection in February last year.

Inspectors said the school had been too slow to recognise areas of weakness and that the progress of pupils currently in the school was ‘too variable’.

However it also praised the school for its ‘inclusive, welcoming community’ and said that pupils had ‘positive attitudes to learning’.

The other schools affected by the county council’s review are Stedham Primary School in Midhurst, Warninglid Primary School in Haywards Heath and Clapham and Patching school in Worthing.

A decision as to whether the schools will enter formal consultation will be made in September.

Kate O’Kelly, county councillor for Midhurst, is calling on the council to provide more support to governing bodies in finding possible partner schools with which to form a federation – which she said ‘brings many positives’ and can protect schools from closure.

She submitted a motion to discuss the issues around school federation to West Sussex County Council to be debated in July.

However the debate was deferred until October, when Dr O’Kelly said the consultation may already be underway.

She said: “I am very disappointed that councillors weren’t able to discuss the benefits of partnership and the challenges that small schools face in the summer and make our views known to the Conservative leadership.

“It would also publicise some of the issues so that our communities would be better able to have more time to respond to the threat to their schools.”