Chichester headteacher says school has to expand now

The headteacher of a Chichester primary school has said now is the right time to embrace plans to expand so it is not forced to turn away pupils in the future.

Catherine Hunn, headteacher of St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, told a hall filled with parents and teachers that this was a ‘fantastic opportunity’ for the school. The plans would allow the school to build three new classrooms with new equipment.

A consultation has been launched for the plans, which, if given planning permission, would see the school increase its pupil size from 30 to 45 for each year group, going from 210 pupils to 315 in total.

“We are incredibly excited about this proposal,” said Mrs Hunn. “Three years ago we had to turn away 12 Catholic families. There are some parents here who know what that is like. But it wasn’t the right time to change – now is the right time.”

She added: “This is such a fantastic opportunity to meet the needs of every Catholic family.”

The plans, which are only in the initial stages, were presented to parents, staff and governors during a meeting at the school last Thursday. The expansion scheme is being funded by West Sussex County Council.

After carrying out a feasibility study, the school said there would be potential to extend the current school hall space and build an all-weather pitch outside, an area usually out of bounds to pupils between October and March because of the muddy fields.

The school wants to build a two-storey extension for two brand-new classrooms. Another new classroom would be built on an existing roof space at the school. The classrooms would also have new ICT equipment.

One parent was concerned these plans would detract from pupils’ education in class, but Mrs Hunn and a class teacher reassured them that providing high-standard education would always be the school’s main focus.

Mrs Hunn explained that increasing pupil numbers from 30 to 45 in each year group did not mean there would be 45 pupils in each classroom.

If the plans were to go ahead, the increase of pupils would be carried out over three to four years, from September 2013. It is likely there would be mixed-age group classes for each stage.

Mrs Hunn added: “It’s about building a community within a community and this will help to develop the school. This is something I am very enthusiastic about.”

Lyndsay Irvine from West Sussex County Council said: “The reason we are doing this nationally as well as county-wide there is an increasing birth rate. Also there are significant developments in Chichester.”

She added: “We don’t have the existing accommodation here now.”

Mrs Hunn said the school could use the Lancastrian and Rumboldswhyke schools as a model as they had 45 pupils in a year group.

One resident from Cawley Road raised some concerns about traffic congestion outside the school and said he hoped this was given some consideration in the plans.