School to consider academy status to thwart closure threat

Parents, staff and members of the community wanted to see Rydon Community College become a secondary school
Parents, staff and members of the community wanted to see Rydon Community College become a secondary school

Governors will be asked to consider changing their school to an academy in an effort to fight off the threat of closure.

The announcement was made by Alan Brien, chairman of governors at Rydon Community College, after West Sussex County Council published the results of a consultation into the reorganisation of education in the area.

One of the proposals which will go forward to the next stage of the STARS consultation was to close Rydon from August 31 2017.

Part of the site would then be used as a Year 7 and Year 8 annex of Steyning Grammar School, while the rest would be taken up by Thakeham First School, which would move from its current location in The Street.

Staff, parents and the Rydon community had campaigned hard to convince the council to turn the college into a secondary school for 11-16-year-olds.

With their appeals falling on deaf ears, Mr Brien said: “Naturally, we are very disappointed with the proposals from the county council.

“They are educationally unsound and to put it rather more strongly, bizarre.

“I am not going to dwell on negativity. Rydon has waited under local authority control to see the current proposals. They offer nothing, now we are going to move to a new phase.

“This week I shall recommend to the governors at the college to vote for a resolution to apply for conversion to an 11-16 academy with effect from September 2017.”

During the consultation period, which ended on September 18, Rydon sent out 12,000 letters in the RH20 area, explaining the college’s ambitions.

Mr Brien said 1,602 people had responded, with a huge majority in favour of the college becoming a secondary school.

But, with the county council announcing only 1,012 people responded to the consultation, it appears not all the supporters took part.

Mr Brien said converting Rydon to an academy would give parents more choice when it came to choosing a school for their children, drive up standards and reduce costs.

He added: “Every Conservative county councillor should welcome the move as it complies with David Cameron’s ambition to make 100 per cent of schools academies.”

Sam Norton, headteacher at Thakeham First School, said staff and governors had received news of the proposed move to the Rydon site “very positively indeed”.

She added: “Our vision and values and motto would remain the same, as would the staff, leadership and governing body, focussing on our small school ethos, but with better access to facilities.

“We would still be a small school with an increase of just one pupil per year group.

“The proposed move of 1.56 miles is within the parish of Thakeham and will enable us to continue to develop positive links with the local community.

“What really makes our school special are the children, families, staff and governors. It is the positive relationships between people linked to it that make it a great place to learn and grow. We cannot take the bricks and mortar with us, but the positive ethos and relationships we can! This is not a change of school; it is simply a move that could bring many benefits for the children.”

When it came to the future of Thakeham’s current site, a spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “It is too early to say what will happen to the school site.”

As well as the suggested closure of Rydon Community College and moving of Thakeham First School, the next stage of the STARS consultation will include a proposal to extend the age range at several schools so that they become primary schools.

The council would like to see Amberley CE First School, Ashington CE First School, Storrington First School, Thakeham First School, St Mary’s CE First School (Washington) and West Chiltington First School take in children from the ages of 4-11 (Year R-Year 6), rather than just 4-10.

If approved, the changes would come into effect on September 1, 2017.

The second consultation period, including public meetings, will run from January 4-February 12, 2016.

The results will be reviewed during March and April before a final decision is made.

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