Head says new secondary school would be ‘waste of money’

Nick Wergan, headteacher of Steyning Grammar School
Nick Wergan, headteacher of Steyning Grammar School

A new secondary school would be a significant waste of taxpayers’ money, according to one headteacher.

Nick Wergan, of Steyning Gramar School, spoke as Rydon Community College, in Storrington, campaigned to expand to take in 11-16-year-olds.

At a time when West Sussex schools are facing significant financial and budget pressures, this would be a significant waste of taxpayer money

Nick Wergan, Steyning Grammar School

Rydon’s plea was made during a public consultation into educational changes in the Storrington area, which ended on Friday (September 18).

The changes would see the age students transfer to secondary school adjusted to bring them in line with the rest of the county. While most of the schools involved have supported the move, staff, parents and pupils at Rydon have been vehement in their opposition, with rumours of possible closure causing concern.

Mr Wergan said he fully understood and had publicly supported the wish for ongoing secondary provision in the area but said the projected student numbers did not justify an 11-16 school.

He added: “At a time when West Sussex schools are facing significant financial and budget pressures, this would be a significant waste of taxpayer money.”

As well as the financial issues, Mr Wergan said West Sussex County Council needed to consider the impact a new secondary school would have on Steyning Grammar, which was founded 400 years ago.

He said: “You would be paying to build a new, unproven and unnecessary school and at the same time have to pay for the decimation this would cause to Steyning Grammar School, a proven, successful one offering children in our area one of the richest curriculum offers in West Sussex.”

Describing much of the campaigning material made public during the consultation as ‘at times alarmist’, Mr Wergan said the central argument for any decision should be focussed on educational principles.

One suggestion was for Rydon to become part of the Steyning ‘family’ and act as a feeder school for children in Years 7 and 8 – a similar arrangement to the grammar school’s Key Stage 3 site in Church Street.

He said: “An awful lot of information is being put into the public arena that could alarm and potentially misinform the community at a time when calm thought needs to be put into the educational principles behind any decisions.

“We have looked to support Rydon with discussions about a federation for over three years – it is a real shame that these suggestions were not received positively and have not been more widely shared with the community.”

Rydon headteacher Allison Murphy made a passionate promotion of the ‘ethos and philosophy’ of the college, whose identity she said would be eroded if the proposed changes were enforced.

The plan for Rydon to become a two-year school would, she said, not be financially viable.

Regarding the possibility of becoming part of a federation with Steyning Grammar, which is nine miles from Rydon, Mrs Murphy told parents: “If we did, that would mean the end of Rydon traditions, the end of a curriculum that we provide at Rydon, and that is really clear in communications that have come out recently from Steyning.

“The Rydon governing body would actually be disbanded. If we combined or federated with Steyning, we would have a governing body that had mostly Steyning members.”

Mr Wergan said: “This consultation is about educational principles and we need to stay closely focused on these – that is our moral imperative.”

Related articles: School’s financial worries over proposed educational changes

Protesters take to the streets to support Rydon School

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