Agenda item

Small Schools Proposals

Report by the Director of Law and Assurance.


The Committee is asked to consider the draft Cabinet decision report and provide comment to the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills prior to the formal decision being taken.


57.1   The Committee considered a report by the Director for Education & Skills (copy appended to the signed minutes) which was introduced firstly by Mr Jupp, Cabinet Member for Education & Skills who told the Committee that he recognised the important input by school governors and the informative public consultation meetings. He added that the Cabinet would consider the proposals on 14 January and make a collective decision on the proposals.


57.2   Paul Wagstaff, Director of Education & Skills told the Committee: -


·         The smallest schools benefitted least from Government funding, which was low for all West Sussex schools

·         Schools whose viability was at risk had been identified and offered four options, apart from Rumboldswhyke, which could only be offered two options due to its OFSTED judgement of inadequate

·         Consideration had been given to feedback from public meetings, the consultation, stakeholders, the diocese and the Task & Finish Group – it had then been analysed and checked by another authority

·         If the proposals were supported by the Cabinet, further consultation would take place in February on the three schools that could face closure


57.2   Mrs Urquhart, Member for Angmering & Findon spoke about Clapham & Patching Church of England Primary School:


·         Clapham & Patching School had struggled with pupil numbers for some years and although it had around 50 pupils, many came from outside the area - restrictions on development in the South Downs National Park made it hard to increase numbers locally

·         A new school planned for Angmering would put more strain on places at Clapham & Patching

·         The school, which was rated as ‘Good’ by OFSTED, accepted change was needed, but would like consultation on the possibility of becoming an academy considered as well as closure

·         Any consultation on becoming an academy would need to be completed before the end of the academic year so that parents were not put off applying for places at the school or lower pupil numbers would increase the likelihood of the school closing


57.3   Summary of responses to Members questions and comments regarding proposals for Clapham & Patching Church of England Primary School: -


·         Discussions were taking place with a multi-academy trust – due diligence was expected to be completed by the end of January with feasibility established by mid-March. If this showed academisation was the best option for the school, this could be agreed before the decision to close the school had to be made, whereas any extra delay could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of closure

·         Any request for academisation had to be agreed by the Regional Schools Commissioner – the Council could not make that decision

·         Any decision made at Cabinet on 14 January would have to clear the call-in period before taking effect, by which time it was hoped due diligence would be completed

·         Six weeks was the statutory length of time for consultations

·         The Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND) Strategy will enhance provision for children with special needs by providing more special support centres (SSCs), including at St Margaret’s School in Angmering

·         The Council would work with parents of children at Clapham & Patching School with SEND to find the right support centre for their children that provided progression to their local secondary school

·         Plans for an SSC at St Margaret’s School were described as advanced as work had been taking place on SSCs for nine months with
St Margaret’s School being identified as a school that would get funding for one

·         The transition of children with SEND from one school to another could be managed to avoid negative impacts on the children and their education

·         If children had to move to new schools it was intended to keep siblings together where possible


57.4   Dr O’Kelly, Member for Midhurst, spoke about Stedham Primary School: -


·         Stedham Primary School was judged ‘Good’ by OFSTED, had a dynamic head teacher and had not lost any pupils since the consultation began, but nine families had decided not to enrol children for the next academic year

·         The South Downs National Park wanted villages within its boundaries to thrive, but development restraints made it difficult to maintain school rolls

·         Children from outside the area went to schools within the national park

·         The consultation was unnecessarily damaging - Stedham Primary School should be allowed to develop a partner and form a federation


57.5   Summary of responses to Members questions and comments regarding proposals for Stedham Primary School: -


·         The Committee felt that consulting on closure for Stedham and Clapham & Patching went against the School Effectiveness Strategy and that those schools were being treated differently to Compton & Up Marden and that the threat of closure was undermining confidence in the schools

·         Compton & Up Marden was in an isolated position geographically meaning it would be more difficult for its pupils to get to other schools and closure would have more impact on the local community

·         Possible federations for Stedham and Clapham & Patching were being investigated, but consultation on closure should continue alongside this as there was no guarantee that at the end of the consultation period federation plans would be in place


57.5   Mr Fitzjohn, Member for Chichester South, spoke about Rumboldswhyke Church of England Infant School: -


·         An email had been sent from the Council’s Director of Education to the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) on 14 June 2019 saying that the Council aimed to close Rumboldswhyke School

·         The RSC would not issue an academisation order till after consultation on closure – the consultation has shown parents are in favour of an all-through primary academy

·         An academy was interested in this proposal, but parents have been told that, despite over 2,800 new homes to be built in Chichester there was insufficient demand

·         The support given to the school by the Council had not been enough to stop its decline to inadequate

·         The school should be allowed to pursue academisation


57.5   Summary of responses to Members questions and comments regarding proposals for Rumboldswhyke Church of England Infant School:


·         After Rumboldswhyke had been judged as inadequate, the Director of Education & Skills had met with governors and parents of pupils of the school and told them that this meant the school either had to become an academy or close – he also reported that it would be difficult to find an academy to run the school because of its size

·         No local academy trusts were willing to take on the school – the local High School might, but only if the school was an all-through primary school, however, there are surplus key stage 2 places in Chichester and if Rumboldswhyke became an all-through primary school it would have class sizes of under 30

·         Rumboldswhyke had received more support from the Council than would be expected for a school of its size – OFSTED had reported in 2017 that the school’s senior leaders and governors were over positive and in 2019 that the school had an over generous view of itself – the school had not been adhering the advice and support offered by the Council

·         All housing development information from district and borough councils had been considered when planning school places

·         There had been a fall of 50 pupils on roll in the Chichester area since October 2019 so no extra key stage 2 places were required

·         School rolls were affected by parental preference


57.6   Resolved – that the Committee recommends: -


     i.        That the consultation to consult on closure on Clapham and Patching be postponed until all options are available to consult on

    ii.        To progress the federation proposals for Stedham, and Compton and Up Marden and not consult on closure

   iii.        To pursue other options for Rumboldswyke before any consultation on closure


  iv.        Supports the progression of consultation on the proposals as listed in the draft decision report for Warninglid

Supporting documents: