Hundreds of passionate parents, teachers and children marched the streets with picket signs to protect the future of their schools.
Sullington Parish Hall in Thakeham Road overflowed with people attending a drop-in event on Wednesday evening (July 8) after they marched along Thakeham Road in support of maintaining their schools.
The event was held so people could learn more about West Sussex County Council’s new consultation on the current age of transfer that affects the STARS area schools.
Principle manager for capital planning and projects, Graham Alway, led the talk. He said the council is not proposing specific changes to any of the schools.
“There are principles that West Sussex County Council has used in previous consultations. We have tested them with the local public. We want to know which principles you think the schools in your area should follow,” he said.
These principles – listed in a consultation form handed out on the evening – state schools should be organised in line with key stages of the national curriculum.
Many of the residents present were connected to intermediate school, Rydon Community College, in Storrington which accepts pupils from Year 6 to Year 9.
Fear was evident amongst the crowd that the consultation could lead to the loss of Rydon.
Before the meeting, a former Rydon pupil, Jake Diserens, 17, said: “I always felt more like a person at Rydon than at Steyning Grammar School. Middle students are lost in a senior school.”
At the meeting, a woman in the audience said her son attends the school in Rock Road.
“If given the option he would love to stay at Rydon. He loves the teachers, the facilities are great. I don’t understand why that is a hindrance,” she said.
Another woman added: “We have survived through two Ofsted reports and we have been able to prove our value. Over the three years the progress they make is above the national average.”
West Sussex County Council chairman Pat Arculus reassured people that there is no reference to closing Rydon in the consultation document.
“The only people talking about closing Rydon are people from Rydon,” she said.
However, school organisation officer Tracey Dunn said that Key Stage 2 results in the area are ‘well under the national average’.
The schools involved in the consultation include Amberley Church of England First School, Ashington Church of England First School, Storrington First School, Thakeham First School, St Mary’s Church of England First School in Washington, West Chiltington Community School, and Rydon Community College.
Mr Alway said: “As you’re aware teachings of Years 10 and 11 doesn’t take place in Rydon. I think if that was to be the approach the county council would have to consider what the implications would be of enabling the school to become Years 11 to 16.”
After the meeting, Steyning Grammar School head Nick Wergan said the school had been in talks for years with Rydon Community College about supporting its continuation and possibly creating a partnership.
Cabinet member for education and skills Jeremy Hunt was also present at the meeting.
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