Free school to take over ex Bartons site while convent work continues

Staff and children from Chichester Free School
Staff and children from Chichester Free School

Chichester Free School plans to move all its primary age children into a disused school site while waiting for its permanent home to be completed.

While work to convert and expand the old Carmelite Convent, in Hunston, is carried out, the school has been temporarily housed at Vinnetrow Business Park.

Now, with pupil numbers swelling, an application has been submitted to Arun District Council to use the former Bartons County Infants School site, in Romney Broadwalk, from September.

The application would be for one year and includes the building of seven modular classrooms on the site.

Headteacher Guy Martyn said 390 children from Reception to Year 6 would be moved after the summer holidays, while the 510 secondary students would remain at Vinnetrow.

The school has grown so much since it was founded in September 2013, he has had to open an extra primary class to accommodate the demand for places.

Mr Martyn said: “This is pretty much the prediction we made for our pupil growth.

“We knew that was going to be too many for where we are now.”

Regarding the opening of the Romney Broadwalk site, he said: “Here we had a ready made school that had been vacated not because it was too old or because there was something wrong with it.

“It seemed to work on a lot of levels.”

The school, which is part of the Sussex Educational Trust, had originally been scheduled to move into the former convent in September 2015.

A series of delays – which Mr Martyn described as financial, commercial and contractual – meant building work only started this February. It should be finished in time for the children to move in in September 2018.

Looking forward to finally settling his school in its permanent home, Mr Martyn said: “It’s been a long time. No one thought we’d be here for as long as long as we have been. It’s a tribute to all the staff and parents that we’ve made it work. We’ve had to suffer the delays but we want it to be right.”

The nuns left the convent in 1994 and it was then used to house agricultural workers. A suspected arson destroyed the chapel in 2009.

To view the planning application, log on to www.arun.gov.uk and search for BE/49/17/PL.

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