A decision on the future of two rural primary schools will be made by a senior councillor before Christmas.
Recommendations for Fletching CE Primary School and Broad Oak Community Primary School will be considered by Cllr Bob Standley, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for education, at a meeting on Monday, December 23.
The closure of both schools was proposed in a bid to reduce the number of surplus places in each area and positively impact other local schools and the provision they can make for all pupils.
Following a public consultation, officers are recommending that a statutory proposal for the closure of Broad Oak Community Primary School be published, while proposals to close Fletching CE Primary School are stopped.
Stuart Gallimore, director for children’s services, said: “We appreciate each and every response we received to the consultation and would like to reassure people that their views were carefully considered alongside the council’s statutory duties.
“It is vital that we support all of our rural schools to ensure they are financially able to deliver a high quality education that meets the needs of their local community.
“We understand the enormity of the recommendation for Broad Oak Community Primary School, but not taking this action will do nothing to alleviate the problems faced, and could lead to more widespread uncertainty and difficulties for other schools in the local area.”
Broad Oak Community Primary School has been under subscribed for the last five years and nearly two thirds of pupils at the school living outside the school’s community area.
The governing board’s three year budget plan shows a £203,435 deficit by 2021/22, despite the school already having restructured in September 2019 to make savings, and with pupil numbers not expected to rise.
With surplus school places available at others schools in the area, the proposals include the extension of the Heathfield community area to incorporate Broad Oak community area allowing parents and carers to express preference for a place at an alternative school.
The publication of the statutory proposal would open up a four week period of representation where people can make further comment. It is expected that a final decision on the proposals would be taken by lead member in March.
Since the launch of the consultation, Fletching CE Primary School’s PTA has been actively fundraising to try to address a predicted budget deficit of £145,863 by 2021/22 and have funding commitments of £74,368.
Governors at the school assume the school will pick-up additional pupils from new house building in the surrounding area, further alleviating pressure on budgets, although the county council’s own forecasts do not match that of the governors.
While the authority believes the school remains in a vulnerable position, it recommends that the consultation into its closure be stopped, giving the governing body the opportunity to address the budget challenge and explore sustainable strategies to attract more pupils to the school.
The full reports and details of the recommendations can be viewed here.
Image by Ron Hill