Grays Nursery merger could be a mistake

AS YOU reported last week (July 20), 72 per cent of those who responded to the initial consultation, supported the proposal to merge Grays Infants and Southdown Junior schools managerially.

This is encouraging, as the evidence seems to be very clear that there are educational benefits from this approach. If many of Newhaven’s youngest residents get a boost as a result, then that will stand them in good stead when they progress to Tideway and then on to further or higher education and into adult life.

However, elsewhere in the paper you reported that Grays Nursery will be moving to the Southdown site during the summer holiday, and hidden away at the end of the “merger” article it is said that the county council would aim to bring the school together on the Southdown site as soon as practically possible. To me, this aspect is of much greater concern.

Like many Newhaven residents, I know both Grays and Southdown well, as all four of my (now adult) children went to both – and additionally I have been the county councillor for this area for almost a quarter of a century.

When Southdown was rebuilt, it was considered that the site was just adequate in the area for a school of that size. Naturally, numbers fluctuate over the years, and it may well be that there is adequate space for the immediate plan to accommodate the children from Grays Nursery.

But is it really feasible to add all the Key Stage 1 children from Grays as well? Or would any extensions result in insufficient play space and other necessary outside areas including parking? The road outside the school, Church Hill, is very steep and narrow, with the historic building of St Michael’s Church atop a high bank opposite the school. So there’s no scope for widening it. At the top there is a right-angle bend, and at the bottom a complicated junction with very poor sightlines.

I am very worried that cramming everything onto this site will damage rather than enhance educational opportunities, and create new dangers for pupils, parents, and pedestrians generally.

Fortunately, the planning process for any of these changes is totally separate from the merger decision, and has yet to start. I urge everyone to remain vigilant, and prepare to play a full part in making sure the planners understand these risks before any decision is made which could be dangerous for young and old!

Cllr David Rogers OBE, County councillor for

Newhaven & Ouse Valley West