MP for Arundel & South Downs Andrew Griffith has responded to the West Sussex County Council’s consultation which proposes to close the Clapham & Patching C of E Primary School.
Mr Griffith is opposed to the closure and has asked the Council to remove the school from the consultation process. He has added his support to the school’s plans to become an academy with the South Downs Education Trust which has the full support of the headteacher, the governors, the parents, the Diocese and the local community.
In his letter, the MP highlights the concerns felt amongst parents, staff and residents who have set out their own strong reasons to keep the small school open. He points out that a small mainstream setting offers an important choice for parents across West Sussex who do so for their children’s education and wellbeing.
Mr Griffith points out that he met parents, pupils and staff at the school in January. “The parents whom I spoke to impressed on me the reasons for choosing a small school to support their children’s unique needs. None of the parents felt their children would cope in a larger school or receive the special attention they currently do to help progress their learning and confidence. The leadership of the school ensures that special needs are met in the same setting as the mainstream pupils and without detriment to other pupils. It is a happy and caring school with engaged pupils and dedicated teachers and staff.”
He emphasises that funding is not an issue for the school which is declared to be in good financial health, and notes that the Government is increasing funding for primary schools with a planned increase in 2020-21 from the current minimum per pupil amount of £3,500 to £3,750, and a further increase to £4,000 in 2021-22.
The MP draws attention to the far-reaching impacts a closure would have on the families, and into the local community where the school has been located for over 200 years with strong links to the local church. He wrote: “A village school is attractive for new families and Clapham needs to continue to attract young people to live in the village to benefit the local community. There are a number of substantial housing development plans being proposed for this constituency and across West Sussex and in the context of this future expectation of substantial population growth we may shortly be facing a shortage of schools and school places.”
The MP states “it would be remiss to force the closure of any school that is performing well, valued by parents, rated ‘Good’ by OFSTED and in good financial health.”
His letter concludes with a request for the Council “to now take steps to remove the school from the consultation just as has been recently done for Stedham Primary School.”
The consultation closes on Monday 16th March.