Hundreds of passionate parents, teachers and children marched the streets with placards 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 intermediate school, Rydon Community College in Storrington.
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.
Principal manager for capital planning and projects, Graham Olway, 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 Rydon, which accepts Years 6 to 8, before they progress onto Steyning Grammar School. Fear was evident amongst the crowd that the consultation could lead to the elimination of Rydon or reducing its Years intake.
Before the meeting, a former Rydon pupil, Jake Diserens, 17, said: “I always felt more like a person at Rydon. 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.
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, general adviser, support and intervention officer Tanya Davis-Munro said that Key Stage 2 results in the area are currently ‘well under the national average’ and it needs to be addressed.
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 Olway said: “As you’re aware teaching of Years 10 and 11 [Key Stage 4] doesn’t take place at 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 ages 11 to 16 and what will be required in both buildings and staffing. It’s certainly not predetermined.”
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.
An online petition has been launched to try to secure the future of Rydon Community College in light of the council’s STARS area consultation.
Entitled ‘Commit to sustainable secondary education in Storrington’, the petition has been launched anonymously and claims that Rydon is in danger of closure.
This follows a drop-in event at Sullington Parish Hall on Wednesday (July 8) that saw hundreds of residents come out in support of Rydon.
To view the online petition, visit http://chn.ge/1UFuNym
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