Worthing school could face closure

A primary school in Worthing could be closed down as the council reviews its long-term viability.

Clapham and Patching Primary School. Photo: Google Image
Clapham and Patching Primary School. 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 Clapham and Patching primary school in The Street, Worthing.

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.

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.”

Clapham and Patching primary school, which has 62 pupils, was told to improve by Ofsted following an inspection in 2017.

Inspectors said that pupils’ progress in writing was not consistently good and that the focus on dealing with pupils’ personal, social and emotional needs reduced the time available for delivering highly effective learning.

However, the report recognised the school’s ‘well-known caring and nurturing environment’ and said it had an ‘admirable reputation’ for supporting pupils with high levels of need.

The other schools affected by the county council’s review are Rumboldswhyke School in Chichester, Compton and Up Marden school in Chichester, Warninglid Primary School in Haywards Heath and Stedham Primary School in Midhurst.

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.”