Petition set up to save 135-year-old Chichester school from closure

A petition, set up to save a 135-year-old Chichester school from closure, has received more than 500 signatures in just five days.

Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 2:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd October 2019, 3:03 pm
Concerned andshocked'residents, past and present parents and former students of Rumboldswhyke school have rallied against the closure proposal.Photo: Kate Shemilt
Concerned andshocked'residents, past and present parents and former students of Rumboldswhyke school have rallied against the closure proposal.Photo: Kate Shemilt

In July, West Sussex County Council confirmed it was considering changes to five rural schools in the county which have ‘exceptionally low pupil numbers’, including Compton and Up Marden school in School Lane, Compton, and Rumboldswhyke Infants’ School in Rumbolds Close, Chichester. Read more here

'Concerned and shocked' residents, past and present parents and former students of Rumboldswhyke school have rallied against the proposal.

A spokesperson for the group, named Save Rumboldswhyke Infants’ School, said: "We are shocked to hear that the council wants to close this amazing school. We have found the school to be a fantastic and safe environment for our children to begin their school education.

"We demand that the school remains open in September 2020."

Cristina Vitan, who has a child in reception at the school and helped set up the petition, added: "A lot of parents were there at a meeting [with the headteacher] this morning. A lot of us are quite upset that they are considering the closure of such a lovely school.

"One parent was saying that this is the school where her child has really settled in."

Cristina said the paper petition, launched on Saturday, has received more than 200 signatures, whilst the online petition, set up on Tuesday, has exceeded 300.

Fellow parent Carl Mutchin, whose seven-year-old boy attends the school, said: "A lot of the parents are upset. We all want it to remain open.

"It is a really good school. The teaching staff have been excellent and my son has thrived in the environment there. We can see the progress that is being made.

"Our son has been there three years now. It is very frustrating. It is an upheaval, particularly for parents who have more than one child at the school, to find them somewhere else.

"Hopefully this will put the school in a good light, and prove that it shouldn't be closed. A lot of people these days just choose schools based on the Ofsted inspections."

Judith Ratledge, from the Whyke Residents' Association, said she and the other members 'want to be consulted'.

"The children are so happy there with individual attention and were all doing so well until a couple of years ago," she said.

"We all feel it is a lovely school. The children are very happy there and it is very local.

"It is a great disappointment. It's not been made official but the proposal is very surprising.

"We can but try [to change their minds]. If we don't do anything, then nothing will be done."

David Barty, who was the chair of governors up until September 16, said he is 'disappointed with the way the county council has handled' the situation. He claimed that there had been a lack of support over the challenges the school faces.

He added: "They haven't gone through the consultation process. There has been an awful lot of talk about it closing but that is not necessarily the case."

In its most recent Oftsed report, Rumboldswhyke School, which has 72 pupils, was rated inadequate by inspectors.

The report stated that there had been ‘considerable turbulence’ within the school over the years and said the quality of teaching needed improving.

However, it also noted that parents were ‘highly positive’ about the school and that provision and outcomes for children in the early years were good.

A county council spokesman said: “Under normal arrangements outside of local authority control, the school would be required to convert to an academy.

"However, due to Rumboldswhyke’s exceptionally low pupil numbers and a significant decline since inspection, finding an academy sponsor is not feasible, which leaves very limited options available.

"A public consultation which includes Rumboldswhyke is due to open shortly and an information event will be held at the school.

“The school has received intensive support from the council over the last two years, but unfortunately the necessary improvements were not embedded sufficiently, as recognised by Ofsted.”

The spokesperson for the campaign group claimed the inadequate rating was 'predominantly due to administrative issues'.

It added: "The new headteacher and her team have resolved the key administrative issues raised by Ofsted and are progressively tackling the remaining issues.

"Housing in the area is increasing rapidly so closing Rumboldswhyke Infants’ School doesn’t make any sense. This will only exacerbate the strain on the remaining schools, the majority of which are already at full capacity.

"Rumboldswhyke school is an environmentally friendly school where children from the community are able to walk to school. It encourages child exercise.

"Closing the school will have a negative impact on the environment as well as children’s health. Rumboldswhyke school has been serving our community for over 135 years. This wonderful school has now suddenly been threatened with closure with little warning or explanation."