An MP has asked West Sussex County Council to show evidence supporting its decision not to expand Rydon Community College.
Nick Herbert, MP for Arundel and South Downs, wrote to councillor Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education, following the second stage of the public consultation on the future organisation of schools in the Storrington area.
Despite Rydon’s wish to expand to take children aged 11-16, the council proposed to close the college and use the site to house Thakeham School and an extension of Steyning Grammar School.
After being faced with the possibility of closure, Rydon leaders announced they would be applying for academy status, effectively taking the college out of the county council’s control.
Following a meeting with council leaders last month, Mr Herbert asked the council to show that the alternative option of Rydon becoming a full 11-16 school, perhaps with academy status, had been fully explored.
Mr Herbert said: “It is not clear to me whether this has not been considered simply because of the cost, or because the county council believes it is for Rydon to pursue the academy option, or if the option has been fully explored but the reasoning has not been set out fully.
“Whatever the reason, it seems to me to be unsatisfactory simply to dismiss a proposal that has some local support, and is the preference of Rydon’s governors, in 142 words.”
Mr Herbert said he supported the principle behind the need for the changes – bringing the STARS schools, as they are known, into line with the rest of the county when it came to the age children transferred to secondary school.
But, with the population growing, he asked the county council to look again at the possibility of Rydon becoming an 11-16 school with academy status.
Mr Herbert added: “I am not expressing a preference: I simply wish to be assured that all of the options have been properly explored.
“It may indeed be the case that the evidence shows that the Rydon option simply isn’t viable, or is unsatisfactory, and that the county council’s proposal is the right one.
“If that is the case, the county council’s proposal will have been strengthened since its evidence and reasoning will be transparent.”
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