Re: the Orchards’ report last week (‘School Fears Downsizing Will Sabotage Success’), Mr James and his cohorts are happy to unnecessarily spend our money on changing first schools to primary schools.
Downsizing the Orchards, which has a fantastic academic record and over 50 very successful after-school clubs, is sheer madness. Another Worthing school with continued poor results is to have its pupil numbers significantly increased. The expansion of this school confirms that Mr James will not be providing the best-possible education for the children of Worthing.
Nor, I suggest, would Mr James be providing sufficient parental choice. Do not take this choice away from the parents of Worthing and leave their children with a poorer education than could be provided. It would appear Mr James has not taken into account that Orchards Middle School is still riding high in the most recent Primary School League Tables for Worthing, whereas the school that has dropped further down the league table is being increased by 50 per cent.
The county council could have a win, win situation by retaining some of the schools that are proposed to be changed from first schools into primary schools. If the first schools remain as is, then there would be considerable savings made, without compromising the children’s education.
For example, new furniture, new books and material would be needed for the necessary curriculum changes. Yes a win, win, win scenario - less costs, a proven quality of education and very importantly parental choice. Instead of building new classrooms etc from scratch as indicated in the proposal, there are already four classrooms available at Orchards, which will be left empty. By utilising what would be empty classrooms, considerable costs in planning and building works would be saved.
Now comes the thorny issue that seems to be defining driver of this project - catchment areas. West Sussex County Council is still unable to answer a question asked at the consultation meeting at Orchards Middle School: ‘Are catchment areas more important than the children’s education?’ A simple question, but one which no one at WSCC will answer with a simple ‘yes’, or ‘no’.
Of course there needs to be a system to allocate school places. Is the one in place fit for purpose? Particularly in Worthing, it is difficult to get a place of choice if you are not in the right catchment area. It even has an effect on the value of property. If you are outside the catchment area there is little chance of obtaining a school of choice.
In conclusion, it would appear that the reward for a school that works hard to provide a good education and many school clubs for the children is to reduce the number of places and potentially demoralise the staff. Well done West Sussex County Council!
Please give Orchards Middle School and other proven schools the tools to provide even more children with a top class, all-round education. Thank you.
If you feel as passionately as I do in providing the best education we can for our children, please contact your local MP, The Minister for Education (Michael Gove) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
• Want to share your views? Send your letters by email: email@example.com or post to Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, BN11 1NA.