THE headteacher of Durrington High School fears that Worthing’s new secondary school could be the ‘poor relation’ of schools in the town.
Sue Marooney has expressed concerns about the £12.4m project, relating to what she perceives to be an insufficient budget, the size of the proposed site in Broadwater and unrealistic expected opening time.
She said: “We are fully committed to the project but our concerns are still the concerns that we have had from day one. That is because we absolutely want it to be the best school it can be for our children and for the community. “We want to build what is something that will hopefully be in use for the next hundred years.
“The original DfE budget for schools of £3,000 per square metre is now in the region of £1,200 to £1,500 per square metre.
“I also think the site is too small because I believe that children have the right to outside space. Worthing is a thriving town and space is limited but we are not in Islington or Westminster.
“There is a really good choice of secondary schools in Worthing with five at the moment, but the sixth one should not be the poor relation and that is what I am asking people to consider.”
West Sussex County Council says it is committed to the opening of a new secondary, which will be sponsored by Durrington Multi-Academy Trust as selected by the Department for Education.
Jeremy Hunt, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “We still expect a new academy to open in September 2015. The DfE has stated that this is achievable on this central Worthing site and we are responding to that.
“We do not believe that the budget for the new school is insufficient. The figure of £12.4m is challenging but was made clear to the sponsor from the outset.
“To delay this project would mean losing grant funding of £12.4m. There is unlikely to be another opportunity for this level of funding, or an available alternative site in the future in time to meet the increased pupil numbers in Worthing feeder schools.”
Town and county councillor Michael Cloake said: “I am shocked that the Trust would take this position considering that the growing need for a sixth secondary school in Worthing and the fantastic opportunity this presents for the Trust.
“The way these views were introduced to the public domain may cause concerns or negativity amongst prospective pupils, parents and the wider community.
“We are confident that an excellent academy can be built within the considerable resources that have been made available and we are determined that the new school will open on this site by September 2015”
A meeting took place last week between the county council and the trust to discuss a way forward.