New Southwater school plan on hold

AN APPLICATION for a Free School in Southwater will not be submitted for the 2012 application round, Horsham Churches Together revealed this week, after a row over the future number of school places.

But development worker Bryan Steele said the idea for a secondary school run by Oasis Community Learning had not been abandoned.

The whole project for a 2012 application was derailed after a major dispute over county council figures indicating the need for a secondary school.

Yesterday Horsham Churches Together said they were simply waiting to be given a clear indication of the future school place requirements for the area from West Sussex County Council.

Horsham Churches Together announced in December that The Oasis Southwater Community School could be built in the village and take its first pupils in September 2014.

It began preparing an application for a Christian ethos school with its own chaplaincy, looking for two possible sites and consulting with and gathering parents prepared to sign up for the school to make its bid to the Department for Education by tomorrow’s (February 24) deadline.

The need for a secondary school in Southwater came from projected school place figures given to Horsham Churches Together by the county council.

The County Times then received a statement from a group of headteachers disputing the need for a new school.

Mr Steele said yesterday the confusion was over the immediacy of the need for places and the delay meant there was now no need to rush ahead.

“The county council provided us with numbers on future secondary school place requirements for the Horsham and Billingshurst area which suggested a need for an additional five forms of entry in 2014 and seven by 2017,” he said.

“This indicated a need for immediate action to provide additional places and these numbers were used in good faith throughout the consultation period.

“In February, the county council advised that neither this set of numbers nor those published by the school heads were appropriate for the strategic planning of future educational needs.

“The council is working on a revised set which we have not yet received.

“However, they have said there will be need for the provision of additional places by 2015 and the new numbers should clarify this position.

“We would like to see what the numbers are from county. We need a final set of numbers to clarify the situation.

“We had the opportunity to meet Lord Hill at the Department for Education and were encouraged to hear that should a proposal be successful in the future, the DfE would fund it.

“The policy had been relaxed which would have allowed us to submit an application while we continued to collect parent signatures.

“However, as a result of this confusion over projected numbers, HCT and Oasis felt it would be appropriate to await this information and not proceed with an application at this time.”