Governors speak out against plans to move Chichester school
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West Sussex County Council is holding a consultation into proposals to move Jessie Younghusband School (JYS) to the new Minerva Heights development west of the city.
Doing so would allow St Anthony’s Special School, which shares the current site in Woodlands Lane, to take over the vacated buildings and enrol 50+ more children.
JYS is a one-form entry school – it has 30 children in each year group.
In a letter to parents, the governing body described how expanding to become a two-form entry school would help to bring financial security.
But they made it clear that they were not – and never had been – in favour of moving to another small site with ‘vague promises of expansion at some undefined point in the future’.
According to the consultation, the Minerva Heights school would be a one-form entry with ‘scope for expansion in the future’.
The governors said that relocating JYS like-for-like was ‘not in the best interest of our school or our community’.
They told parents that, during discussions with the county council, they had insisted at every stage that three key criteria needed to be met.
The proposals had to show that there were clear benefits for both the school and the community; the new school must be a two-form entry from the start; and there must be a guarantee that JYS would keep its current catchment area, providing sufficient places for the current community in years to come.
The governors said: “The assurances we have sought, that these three key criteria would be met, have not been forthcoming – there has been no firm commitment to any of them.
“We do not believe that the current proposal guarantees fulfilment of our three main requirements.
“We are therefore of the opinion that the move is not in the best interest for our school or our community.
“We share many of the concerns expressed by our community, including concerns related to access.”
While recognising the pressure the county council is under to provide more school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities, the governors said that no possibilities other than the expansion of St Anthony’s had been shared with them.
They told parents that they were of the view that one line from the consultation – ‘Vacating the current Jessie Younghusband building allows for a relatively low-cost permanent expansion of St Anthony’s Special School and within a shorter time frame than an organic new build would take’ – was the ‘driving force’ behind the relocation proposal.
It was a view shared by one parent, Becca, who accused the council of ‘underhand tactics’ to save money.
She added: “JYS is the heart of the community in north Chichester and moving it westwards to Minerva Heights would have huge long-term negative impacts on our community.
“It is vital JYS continues serving the children of East Broyle, Summersdale and Roussillon Park as it has done for the last 50+ years.
“Minerva Heights residents need the school that was promised to them as part of the planning applications.
[The council] can’t rip a school out of a community just to save money.”
A council spokesman said the consultation responses would influence the ongoing planning process.
They added: “We knew there were concerns about some aspects of the proposals, including those from parents concerned about accessing the proposed new site, hence the need to hear from a wide-range of people through the consultation.
“If the proposal progresses, every effort will be made to support the school in continuing to encourage parents and carers to safely access the new site on foot or by bicycle and limit the number of vehicle journeys.
“We value the available green and open space on the current site. Consideration was given to expanding St Anthony’s School on its current site but the proposal of relocating Jessie Younghusband School has many additional benefits.
“If approved, feasibility work to determine the extent of adaptations to the existing Jessie Younghusband School buildings will be needed before any specific costs can be estimated and building work can commence.
“We will continue to keep parents updated on the progress of the proposals over the coming weeks and months.”
The consultation ends on January 31.
To find out about the Save Jessie campaign, log on to www.savejessie.co.uk