Closure of school outside Midhurst would ‘rip heart out of the village’

“The school has been here for 140 years; its closure would rip the heart out of the village.”

Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 11:19 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 11:34 am
Stedham Primary School, nr Midhurst. Pic Steve Robards SR1918736 SUS-190730-145119001

Those were the words of the headteacher of Stedham Primary School after it was revealed that the cabinet will be asked to support proposals to shut the school, along with Rumboldswhyke Infant School and Clapham and Patching Primary School, near Worthing, at a meeting on January 14. Read more here

Headteacher Malcolm Meaby said the news came as a shock and has ‘caused much sadness in our close-knit community’.

He added: “With consistently ”good” Ofsted ratings, healthy pupil numbers and budget and a woodland setting our school is thriving, so closure makes no sense.

Stedham Primary School public meeting SUS-190611-135622001

“West Sussex County Council has offered us an opportunity to prevent closure on the proviso that we can make a plan to federate with another school. The governors and I are embracing this opportunity because we have seen the benefits that federation has already provided in other schools.

“A shared curriculum, teaching, resources and enrichment activities such as trips would all enrich our young learners’ experience. We are talking to several interested partner schools and look forward to exploring the benefits that partnering with another school would provide for our pupils.

“Our beautiful village school has a very special atmosphere; our children are confident, rounded young learners who benefit from our approach of individually tailored education for every child.”

A petition set up by the school has been signed by more than 3,500 people. Click here to help them reach the target of 5,000 signatures.

Mr Meaby added: “Throughout this consultation, we have been moved by the strength of support the school has received from the wider community; both from within the village and beyond.

“The loss of the school would be devastating to the village of Stedham; it would change its very nature forever.”

‘I intend to fight this all of the way’

Kate O’Kelly. county councillor for Midhurst, said it is vital that Stedham school is ‘given more time to find the right partner school’ and move towards federation ‘in a timescale that suits the schools not WSCC’.

She added: “Our small schools should be treasured, they sit at the heart of the communities and they offer a truly nurturing environment.

“Closing a school should be absolutely the last resort. All alternatives need fully exploring.

“Moving to federation of two small schools can bring benefits for pupils, staff and parents and critically makes both schools sustainable. I intend to fight this all of the way.”

‘Stedham Primary School represents the centre of the village’

Parents of children at the school have spoken out against the proposed closure.

Rosa Thorpe said: “Stedham Primary School has more than exceeded our expectations.

“Our son is so happy there and has developed such a positive desire to learn. It provides a fantastic environment for children to grow whilst being such a friendly school where all children are known and treated as individuals.”

Jon Nicholson said his children ‘thrived in their years’ at the school.

He added: “I believe it set them up to become confident well-rounded children fully prepared to embrace secondary school. 

“Stedham Primary [School] represents the centre of the village and has always overcome any problems it has encountered over the years.”

Hannah Scott said it is ‘such a friendly school’ with an ‘approachable staff team’.

Jemma Hunt said: “Stedham is a warm, happy school where my children receive an excellent and varied learning experience. I couldn’t want for more.”

The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of the children and young people’s services scrutiny committee on January 9, before going to cabinet.

Both meetings will be held at County Hall, Chichester, and will be webcast at www.westsussex.gov.uk.