Deadline closes on Chichester high schools’ consultation

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THE FINAL two consultation meetings on the future of Chichester’s high schools have been held, with the project manager saying ‘no news is good news’.

Both took place on Tuesday (January 13) ahead of the deadline for comments last Friday (January 16).

Belinda Clark, project and change manager for the schools’ academy trust TKAT, revealed the majority of the 277 surveys submitted so far were in support of the merger. A total of four parents attended the meetings, with girls school chairman of governors Peter Waters admitting the low attendance was ‘a shame’.

“For us it is about reassuring people and getting to the detail, then you can have a sensible debate,” he said.

“I think for some it looked like it was cut-and-dry in the way we presented the decision. In hindsight we should have said ‘this is what we’ve looked at’ and ‘this is why we think this is best’.”

The driving forces behind the proposal include falling students numbers, the impact that has on budget and what the schools can offer.

“We are now in a unique position in term of that we have to look at what we want to offer our students in the future,” said Mr Waters.

“The people making these recommendations are not bureaucrats from somewhere else, they are people who have the interest and knowledge of the students here.

“We took about nine months to come to this conclusion.

“It boiled down to how much do we treasure single- sex teaching – how important is it to maintain two separate schools?” he said.

“If the appeal of single- sex education was enough, 
we wouldn’t be in this position.”

Both schools are only ‘50 per cent full’ which was attributed to increased ‘parental choice’ nearby and fewer children locally in the age range.

Executive head teacher Yasmin Maskatiya said she was ‘excited for the opportunity’ it could bring.

“We have an opportunity for a brand new school, but we are not doing it from an unknown base – there is a huge benefit to that,” she said.

“What we are talking about, at this stage, is the principle of it. We want to do the best bits of everything.”

If agreed, the move will be presented to the Education Funding Agency and secretary of state with an answer hoped ‘by Easter’.

The September, 2016, intake will be the first impacted if the merger proceeds.