Fewer children in Chichester driving school merging talks

Picture by Kate Shemilt
Picture by Kate Shemilt
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THERE are not enough children in Chichester any more to fill secondary school places.

Parents at a public meeting on Tuesday night (November 18) at Chichester High School for Girls were told the lack of children in the area was a key reason behind its potential merger with the boys’ school.

“The simple answer is there are not sufficient children in the Chichester community at the moment and our predictions of what we can see in terms of going ahead is that’s not going to change,” said chairman of the governors at CHSG, Peter Walters.

“What’s driving this is because there are not enough children in the Chichester community. Schools like ours are not 
at capacity.”

Money matters are driving the merger talks, with the schools’ budget set by how many pupils attend.

The opening of another school just down the road had also had a knock-on impact, according to CHSG headteacher Yasmin Maskatiya.

“The capacity in Chichester has increased,” she said.

“There’s a free school in Chichester which has been part of this equation.

“We probably wouldn’t be in such a difficult position if it wasn’t for the free school.

“That’s not me attacking it, that’s just a fact of what’s happened.”

In the past two years, both boys’ and girls’ schools were taken over by the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT).

David Linsell, director of education at TKAT, said this was the first merger of which TKAT had been part.

Only five parents turned out at Tuesday’s meeting, with a further meeting at the boys’ school planned for January.

The consultation runs until 5pm on January 16.

Concerns raised by parents included how current students would be impacted by the changes and whether it was a ‘flawed consultation’ as many believed the schools’ merging was already a foregone conclusion.

School representatives were asked if the plan had always been to merge the schools once both were taken over by TKAT.

Mr Waters said there had been no plans until recently to merge the schools, saying they checked with TKAT when they were first approached.

“We specifically asked the chief executive of TKAT if that was what they were thinking about and they categorically said it was not,” he said.

News also broke last week that CHSG headteacher Ms Maskatiya is taking up a temporary position as executive headteacher of the boys’ school ‘before a permanent replacement is appointed during the course of the academic year’.

Chairman of governors Peter Waters stressed this was a temporary appointment.

There were 220 Year 11 girls who left CHSG last year, compared with 140 Year 7 girls who joined this year.

At CHSB, 200 Year 11 left last year compared with 120 joining this year’s Year 7 group.

Following the closing of the consultation, a decision is expected from the Department of Education in April, 2015.

To respond to the survey, visit www.research.net/s/chichesterhighschools.

See today’s Observer (November 20) for what teachers, parents and students think of the consultation.