‘Shameful’ and ‘shambolic’ were two of the kinder insults hurled at West Sussex councillors after they voted to go ahead with a consultation into the closure of three small schools.
At a meeting of the cabinet, it was agreed the consultations into closing Rumboldswhyke Infant School, Clapham & Patching Primary, and Stedham Primary from September would go ahead.
Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education, said he was ‘heartened’ by the efforts being made to academise Clapham & Patching and to link Stedham with a federation.
But suggestions the consultation could be postponed for one month while that work continued were not approved.
Mr Jupp said the council had been contacted by the Regional Schools Commissioner who said he would not consider any application for Clapham & Patching to join an academy group until the consultation was over.
But it was agreed that if federation plans between Stedham and another school were worked out by the middle of March, the closure option could be dropped.
When it came to Rumboldswhyke, though, the feeling was the council saw the school as something of a lost cause.
With closure the only option on the table, Mr Jupp reminded members that the school had been rated inadequate by Ofsted last May and had ‘a history of declining enrolment’.
He said he was aware that there had been some interest in the school becoming part of an academy – but only as an all-through primary school.
That was not seen to be acceptable.
Mr Jupp said there was a surplus of Key Stage 2 places in Chichester and it ‘would not be appropriate’ to increase the intake at Rumboldswhyke and ‘put additional pressure on existing schools in Chichester which are already unable to fill their places’.
There were calls of ‘where?’ from the packed public gallery. A list of the unfilled places at each school in Chichester was included in the agenda.
It showed that, in central Chichester – Rumboldswhyke’s area – 202 of the 250 spaces between Years 3 and 6 were at Central School.
Things were more simple for Warninglid Primary and Compton & Up Marden Primary.
Warninglid has agreed in principle to form a federation with Colgate Primary once the school moves to its new home in Pease Pottage. This is scheduled for September 2021.
At Compton & Up Marden, Mr Jupp said work had been carried out in the past few weeks to secure a federation partner.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Jupp said: “I’m really heartened by the fact that Stedham, Clapham, Compton and Warninglid have really grasped the proposal of federation or academisation over the last two months.
“All the messages that we seem to be getting indicate that there will be a positive outcome from those discussions and I hope they will be able to come back to us shortly.”
A consultation on the decisions will run on the council’s website from February 3 for six weeks. A final decision on each of the schools will be made in April.