Worthing school granted permission to remain open as an academy
A small primary school near Worthing will be able to remain open after it was granted permission to become an academy.
The Regional Schools Commissioner confirmed today that Clapham and Patching primary school in Worthing can convert to academy status and join the South Downs Education Trust, which includes Worthing High School.
It comes after West Sussex County Council’s cabinet agreed to close the school in April, deeming it to be ‘financially and educationally unviable’.
The decision came despite a council scrutiny committee asking for the proposals to be dropped.
However in a letter sent today to the county council, Claire Burton Regional Schools Commissioner, South East and South London, confirmed the school could remain open.
She wrote: “After careful consideration of the genuine cases for and against the closure of Clapham and Patching CofE Primary School and the academisation proposal brought forward by South Downs Education Trust, the Parliamentary Undersecretary for State for the Schools System, Baroness Berridge, has decided to issue an academy order.
“In doing so she has approved the application for Clapham and Patching CofE Primary School to convert to academy status and join South Downs Education Trust, thus allowing the school to remain open.
“The strength of feeling from multiple parties on both sides of this argument has been acknowledged throughout this decision making process.
“Now certainty has been provided, I hope all parties can now move forward positively to make a great success of the school.
“My office will shortly formally issue an academy order to the school’s governing body, and work with the academy trust and local authority officals to begin the process of converting the school into an academy.”
Pan Panayiotou, the headteacher of Worthing High School and chief executive of the South Downs Education Trust, said he was ‘delighted’ by the decision.
He said: “The news comes at a very challenging time for all our school settings and we know as a trust, that this news, will look to provide some clarity for all of the pupils, staff and parents with the Clapham and Patching community.
“We are mindful of the journey ahead and are excited to be working with Clapham and Patching, staff, Governors, Diocese and the local authority in helping to keep the school open.
“South Downs Education Trust will ensure that Clapham and Patching retains the Christian ethos and values that make it such an important part of the community and gives its unique inclusive, friendly and supportive environment.”
The decision was also welcomed by Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and South Downs, who said: “After a long fight in support of parents and staff this is really excellent news.
“I warmly welcome South Downs Education Trust who put forward a credible proposal to help save the school, and as the Minister says, I hope all parties can now move forward positively to make a great success of this historic school.”
Mr Grifith had strongly opposed the decision to close the school, calling it ‘the wrong decision made with distasteful timing’.
Parents were left ‘absolutely devastated’ and ‘angry’ by the decision and the prospect of having to find new school places for their children amid the lockdown – see more here.
Responding to the news today, Jane Foster, whose five-year-old Christopher attends Clapham and Patching, said she and parents were ‘elated’ by the news.
“We are all extremely happy that the school is going to stay open,” she said. “That’s got to be better than closing it down and saying goodbye to 200 years of history.
“It’s a lovely school, it’s a beautiful building.”
While she said parents did not know exactly what to expect from the conversion into an academy, she said they were heartened by the fact the trust wanted to retain the ethos of the school.
“We are massively excited and happy with it staying open and just glad our children have a chance for a decent future there,” she said.
West Sussex County Council has issued the following statement: “In October last year we started a consultation on the future of five small schools, in accordance with the Department for Education guidance and our 2018 School Effectiveness Strategy.
“After considering all of the information available, Cabinet decided in April to issue closure notices for Clapham & Patching and Rumboldswhyke Schools.
“Following these decisions, applications were made, independent of the council, to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) to academise the two schools.
“We have now been informed that these bids have been accepted and it is the RSC’s intention for both schools to become academies.
“The Department for Education did not comment on and were not critical of the County Council’s work and planning in relation to school effectiveness but have simply responded to requests from individual academy sponsors.
“The concerns we raised around the viability of the schools still stand and we remain committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of West Sussex schools.
“We will continue to support the children and their schools and we look forward to working with the schools, the academy trusts and the RSC to support the process through the coming months.
“We wish the children well in their future.”
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