Schools review to be considered by lead member

Nick BennettMEMBERS of the public could soon be asked for their views on plans to close two Lewes primary schools following a district-wide review.

East Sussex County Council’s lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability, Cllr Nick Bennett, will be asked to approve a public consultation on the proposed closure of Pells CE Primary School and Rodmell CE Primary School.

The county council carried out an extensive review of primary schools in the Lewes district to ensure there were sufficient places to meet predicted future demand and that schools were well placed to deliver sustainable, high quality education to their communities.

The review is part of the council’s continuing efforts to raise the quality of education across East Sussex as part of its Excellence for All strategy. The aim of the strategy is to ensure all children are taught in a school rated good or outstanding by Ofsted and reach their full potential.

The findings highlighted that the primary schools often struggle to meet their pupil admission number which impacts on their ability to secure financial stability and good outcomes for pupils.

“Following the review, and research into the possibility of federation or amalgamation, it was decided to put forward proposals for the closure of the two schools,” said Stuart Gallimore, children services director at East Sussex County Council.

“This was not a decision that was taken lightly, but our focus needs to be on giving all children in the county the best chance at reaching their full potential. We have informed parents of the proposals and will continue to discuss the options with them throughout the process.”

The report to lead member states that the previous headteacher left Pells Primary School in December 2015, that Rodmell Primary School will be without a headteacher from August 2016, and that recruiting a permanent replacement for either will be difficult.

Fewer parents are selecting Pells Primary School as a preference and the school received a second “requires improvement” from Ofsted in February 2015.

While Rodmell Primary School was judged to be good by Ofsted at its last inspection, it is too small to be financially sustainable in the future and is already having to consider reducing the number of classes. Most of its pupils travel from Lewes or Newhaven, with very few children living in the village itself.

Mr Gallimore added: “I would like to reassure parents that if, following the consultation, the school closures are approved, there will be sufficient places available at local schools in the long-term – in some cases, at schools which are closer to pupil’s homes.”

Cllr Bennett, lead member for education and inclusion, special educational needs and disability, will consider the report at a meeting on Monday, March 21.  If approved, the public consultation would begin on Friday, April 15.

The full lead member report can be found here.