Parents ‘absolutely devastated’ at decision to close school near Worthing

Parents have been left ‘absolutely devastated’ and ‘angry’ by the decision to close a small school near Worthing despite fierce opposition from the community.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 3:53 pm
Parents and Pupils at Clapham and Patching primary school

West Sussex County Council’s cabinet agreed to issue a closure notice to Clapham and Patching Primary School, which they consider to be financially and educationally unviable, at a virtual meeting on Tuesday – read more here.

Kerry Allen, whose two daughters attend the school, said: “We are absolutely devastated. My eight-year-old, she was beside herself yesterday, the uncertainty has been really hard on her and this wasn’t the result we were hoping for at all.”

As a resident of the village, she said she was angry at the way the views of the community had been ‘completely dismissed’, adding: “The school has been part of our community for over 200 years.

“It’s part of the fabric of the community.”

She of the decision: “We are really unhappy with the way in which it’s been dealt with, as well as the result.”

Jane Foster, whose five-year-old Christopher attends the school, said she was ‘deflated’ but ‘not surprised’ by the outcome.

She said parents felt they had not been listened to and that the decision had been ‘predetermined’.

Ms Foster said: “They’ve gone against their own scrutiny committee for the second time. What’s the point of them if their views are not counted?”

Parents now face having to find a new school for their children – many of whom have special educational needs – to attend come September.

Ms Foster is having to consider a school in Steyning – an eight-mile journey away – or even in Chichester.

Due to the lockdown, they may not have an opportunity to visit the school before making a decision.

Parent Jo Jones, who is having to consider the option of home-schooling her children, said: “How can you possibly know if it’s the right school for your children by looking at the website?”

Another parent, Rosemary Hudson, said the closure would have ‘a serious impact on all of the children’s mental health and future education’.

“Closing this school at any time is a bad idea but doing it during the time of national crisis when parents cannot view other schools is totally unacceptable,” she said.

The decision has been criticised by Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel & South Downs, who said: “This is the wrong decision made with distasteful timing and I deeply regret its impact on pupils, parents, staff and the local community.

“The decision is contrary to the recommendation from the council’s own scrutiny committee, the government’s policy of keeping small rural schools open and in the face of a credible alternative put forward by the well-regarded team at Worthing High School.”

In an effort to ease the coming changes for children with special needs, cabinet members have agreed that the school building should be kept open to allow them to attend lessons while their parents decided on a new school.

But many parents were not reassured by this solution, and said returning to the ‘empty shell’ of the building could be more damaging for the pupils.

Ms Hudson said the idea showed ‘a serious lack of the understanding of these children’s needs’, adding: “These children need to be supported by staff who know them well during this exceptional challenging time for them.”

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