Head fears education strategy will see small schools close

WSCC
WSCC

A headteacher said he feared the county council’s draft School Effectiveness Strategy for 2018-2022 could lead to the closure or merger of some small schools.

People have been invited to share their views on the strategy, which will set out how the council will work with bodies such as schools, colleges and trusts to raise standards and develop sustainability.

But Graham Bloomfield, head of Fittleworth CE Village School said the document looked to him like “a licence to facilitate the closing or ‘merging’ of some of our small schools”.

His concerns included one of the objectives in the ‘school organisation’ section of the strategy, which states that the county’s viable primary schools would “typically be a minimum one form entry providing 210 places”.

Figures from the Department for Education list Fittleworth as having 133 children – and Mr Bloomfield said: “By my reckoning this makes at least 13 of 15 primary schools within the Rother Valley inviable.”

He added: “It is a short-sighted strategy with potentially catastrophic implications for some of our village communities that have already been stripped of their pubs, post offices, shops and vicars.”

Another concern, in the same section of the strategy, was the somewhat vague statement that pupils living two or three miles from their catchment school, depending on their age, ‘may’ receive transport.

Mr Bloomfield said: “So as West Sussex continues to grease the slippery pole of austerity, my suggestion would be to squirt a little oil on your bike chain; you might soon need it!”

When asked about Mr Bloomfield’s concerns, a council spokesman said: “It’s important to stress that the school effectiveness document out for consultation until June 15 is designed to provide a framework for discussion only.

“The feedback from the consultation will then enable us, in partnership with all stakeholders, to develop a final strategy.

“We welcome all responses to the consultation.”

Inviting people to have their say on the draft strategy, Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “We’re keen to hear the views of anyone who has an interest in education provision across West Sussex which will help inform our final School Effectiveness Strategy from 2018 to 2022.”

The consultation ends on June 15 and can be accessed via www.westsussex.gov.uk/schooleffectiveness2018 .