School amalgamation gets parents’ thumbs up

An overwhelming majority of parents have backed plans by East Sussex County Council to create a new all-through primary school in Crowborough.

Parents were asked for their views on plans to build on the successful partnership that has been forged between Whitehill Infants School (ages 4-7) and Herne Junior School (ages 7-11) by bringing them together to form one new primary school.

A total of 1,400 consultation documents were issued. Of the 107 replies received, 100 (93%) signalled their support for the plans.

Since 2009 the two schools have worked in partnership in a federation with a single headteacher and one governing body. This has led to an increase in the number of children achieving Government standards at age 11 and the percentage of pupils doing so now exceeds both East Sussex and national averages.

To build on this success East Sussex County Council announced plans in June to bring the two schools together formally to create one new primary school which would continue to operate from both school sites. It was a proposal that had the support of the schools’ governing body.

Cllr Nick Bennett, the County Council’s Lead Member for Learning and School Effectiveness said: “I am extremely pleased that a very large majority of parents who responded to this consultation support our ambitions for these schools, for their pupils, and for the community.

“The federation of the two schools has meant they now have common policies and approaches to teaching and learning, and for tracking of pupils’ progress. The schools are effectively working as one and so it makes sense to bring them together formally to create one school.”

Recent figures continue to show that overall key stage 2 standards (at age 11) are higher in East Sussex for all-through primary schools than in junior schools where children transfer at the start of year three from a separate infant school.

Cllr Bennett said: “What has been achieved at these schools illustrates very well how pupils benefit from all-through primary education. In practice our plans for Whitehill and Herne would simply formalise what is already happening.”

To achieve the merger of the two schools, the County Council has to follow a statutory process. With consultation now complete, Cllr Bennett has now approved the publication of statutory notices. This provides a further six week period in which further comments can be made between January 2013 and February 2013.

It is expected that a final decision will be made in March next year with the new school starting in September if agreed.