Hundreds have say on schools consultation

Rydon Community College march to Sullington Parish Hall before drop-in SUS-150907-162028001
Rydon Community College march to Sullington Parish Hall before drop-in SUS-150907-162028001

Governors at Rydon Community College have warned it would be a “school waiting to close” if proposals to reshape education in the area go ahead.

West Sussex County Council launched a public consultation in July to gauge people’s reaction to plans to change the age at which children in the Storrington area transfer to secondary school.

Rydon Community College march to Sullington Parish Hall before drop-in even SUS-150907-162038001

Rydon Community College march to Sullington Parish Hall before drop-in even SUS-150907-162038001

So far, 640 people have taken part in the consultation, which ends on Friday September 18. If agreed, the changes would bring the area into line with the rest of the county, with children transferring to secondary school at the age of 11 rather than going through a ‘middle school’ stage from the ages of 10 and 13.

As the consultation entered its final days, Rydon’s chair of governors, Alan Brien, wrote to 12,000 homes in the RH20 area explaining his fears and inviting them to attend an open day at the school.

Mr Brien said it was “beyond question” a new secondary school would be needed on the west side of the A24 within 10 years. Convinced Rydon should be that school, he said it made “no sense” to reduce it from a three-year school to a two, only to have to build it back up again. He wrote: “Faced with competing for children against all the main unit 11-16 secondary schools, Rydon would become irrelevant.” He added: “We would become a school waiting to close.”

The open day will be held at the school in Rock Road, Storrington, on Saturday (September 12) from 9am-noon.

As well as Rydon, the schools involved in the consultation are: 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, and West Chiltington Community School.

Known collectively as the Storrington Area Rural Schools (STARS), not all of them shared Rydon’s fears about the proposed changes.

Speaking on behalf of other governors in the STARS group, Amberley’s chair of governors Carolyn Shaw stated: “Young people must come first in any debate about the future shape of the education system in the Storrington area.

“While change is rarely welcome, local loyalty to a system that does not deliver for the young seems misplaced.”

Ms Shaw said the STARS method of guiding children through the education system had “hindered” students’ achievements at GCSE level.

She said the chances of students getting five good passes at Steyning Grammar School were “significantly lower” for those who had come via the STARS route compared to those who attend primary schools in the Steyning area.

She added: “All schools in the STARS group signed up to a set of principles in January 2013 that put the best possible outcomes for all young people at the heart of their mission.

“The first schools remain committed to this purpose and to achieving the best all through route for our young people, working with everyone to achieve that.”

A public meeting to discuss the issue will be held in the Arun Room, Pulborough Village Hall, from 7-9pm on Monday September 28. Tickets are available via the schools.

A council spokesman welcomed further responses to the consultation and added: “Once all comments have been considered, the cabinet member for education and skills, Jeremy Hunt, will make a decision on the future organisation of schools. If changes are proposed there will be a further period of consultation.”

Any changes would come into effect in September 2017.

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