The new year brought some less than happy news for three small schools which West Sussex County Council plans to close from September.
Despite appeals to stop the process, members of the cabinet will be asked to support proposals to shut Clapham and Patching Primary School near Worthing, Rumboldswhyke Infant School in Chichester and Stedham Primary School near Midhurst at a meeting on January 14.
They will also be asked to support plans to move Warninglid Primary School in September 2021 to a new site in Pease Pottage – which is expected to be complete by June 2021 – and federation proposals for both Warninglid and Compton and Up Marden Primary Schools.
As part of its School Effectiveness Strategy, which was adopted in 2018, the council deemed all five schools to be at risk due to problems such as falling numbers and financial viability.
A consultation was held in October and November and a Task & Finish Group was set up to look into the entire process in detail.
The council was heavily criticised by school governors after holding the first of those meetings behind close doors – a decision Celia Billington, vice-chair at Stedham Primary, branded a ‘damning indictment of this authority’s governance processes’.
The second meeting, in October, was held in public.
While recognising the need for the schools to work with the council, Ms Billington appealed to members, saying: “Stop this illogical and damaging consultation. Meet with us, visit our schools and talk to our schools. Engage.”
If the cabinet gives the nod to the proposals, people will have six weeks to have their say – a process expected to start on February 3 – before a final decision is made in May or June by Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for education and skills.
The decisions will take effect on August 31.
The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the children and young people’s services scrutiny committee on January 9, before going to cabinet.
Both meetings will be held at County Hall, Chichester, and both will be webcast. Log on to www.westsussex.gov.uk for details.