Planned change ‘simply wrong’

I am sure that most of your readers are now aware of the proposed changes to Worthing schools and that we are now in the public consultation period.

In short, West Sussex County Council wishes to reduce the age of transfer from primary school to secondary from year seven to year six in September 2015, and has sent out proposals detailing how the changes would affect all of the individual schools in our town.

The public meeting to discuss how the changes would affect Orchards Middle School and Field Place First School took place on Thursday and, on behalf of the governing body of the Orchards Middle School, I would like to thank everyone who took the time and trouble to attend this meeting.

The meeting was full of passion and emotion and with poignant views being expressed and probing questions asked – most of which couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be answered by the representatives of the county council.

The intention is to reduce our numbers at the Orchards from 600 to 480, so we would only take in 120 new children each year instead of the current 150.

That is four classes as opposed to five. Here comes my question: why, oh why, would you want to make the most successful middle school in Worthing smaller, massively reduce our budget, leave us with empty classrooms, damage staff morale and basically pull the rug from under us, thus undermining all the hard work, effort and commitment that every single member of staff has contributed over the many previous years?

Our results show that all our pupils make better than expected progress during their time with us, making us top of the league tables in Worthing and in the top 25 per cent of the country.

We have 52 after-school clubs, we are regional and national champions at dance and also in film-making, we are local and regional champions in a wide variety of sports for both boys and girls.We have invested heavily and thoughtfully in our facilities, doubling the size of our hall, an IT suite that most businesses would envy, a cookery room that enables us to host a huge Masterchef competition.

I could go on. I wish that those responsible for putting these proposals forward had taken the time and trouble to come and visit us prior to planning the reorganisation. They would have seen for themselves the true spirit of the Orchards – we call it sparkle. They would have met our fantastic team of teachers and staff, they would have seen how wonderful our children are and they would have been amazed by our facilities. Instead, they haven’t and are looking to invest money in other schools in our locality whilst leaving us with empty classrooms and fewer pupils. Tax payers’ money well spent? I don’t think so.

Best outcome for our primary children? In my view, clearly not. The proposed changes will have a significant impact on our ability to continue to provide such a rewarding, challenging and enriching primary school experience to our pupils and, for me, that is just simply wrong.

Ian Chilvers

chairman of governors

Orchards Middle School

Nelson Road