I have now made my formal submission to West Sussex County Council in response to their consultation to reduce the number of surplus school places in Worthing. My submission, which you can see below, focusses on the impact the proposals would have on Springfield Infant School.
I understand the need to reduce surplus places at primary school in Worthing, and also recognise that Chesswood and Lyndhurst schools support the proposals but I see no need for Springfield to be included.
Dear Councillor Jupp
Worthing surplus places consultation and specifically the impact on Springfield Infant’s School
I am writing to express formally my strong objections to the consultation proposals to merge Springfield School in my constituency into a 3-way school with Chesswood and Lyndhurst. This follows conversations we have had, including with officers from WSCC Education Department and extensive representations and meetings with constituents including the families of children, teachers and governors at the school.
I have received approaching 100 emails and letters and this is on top of the many direct representations that I know have been sent in to County Hall as part of the consultation exercise and a well-supported petition. This is one of the highest levels of correspondence I have ever received on a local school related matter in my more than 25 years as the MP for East Worthing & Shoreham. Not a single constituent has written to me in support of the option to include Springfield in the merger. Given that this is a small school with just 200 pupils this is a remarkably high level of engagement emphasising the strength of feelings on the proposals.
I understand and support the need to reduce the number of surplus places at primary schools in the Worthing area although I may differ on the level required and the likely increased demand from families moving into Worthing. I understand that Chesswood and Lyndhurst support the proposals and that is where the problem of surplus spaces exists. Removing Springfield from the equation need not prejudice the need to address surplus places. I therefore urge the Council to stick with the option that excludes Springfield from the changes and retain the status quo there.
Below, I have included just a few quotes from a selection of submissions I have received from people with a direct interest in the school.
“Springfield is a small successful school that has been identified by OFSTED and WSCC as a good school. Their data is strong, and the school provides a rich creative curriculum that meets the needs of all children. Children with specific needs are well catered for and the quality of care and support through COVID and at all times is second to none. Furthermore it is my belief that merging Springfield with Chesswood and Lyndhurst would be detrimental to the current and future children and families attending Springfield”
“Our buildings are well maintained and well-resourced as a result of an expertly led finance team who have strong strategies in place for now and the future and the ability to make their own financial decisions and manage their own budgets. Our nursery is a popular and profitable additional resource for our parents”
“We chose Springfield for our nervous first born. From the moment we stepped into that school, our mind was made up. ****’s reception teacher and TA showed us an extraordinary level of care, nurturing, and expertise, that has allowed him to flourish into a wonderful human being. History is now repeating itself with our second born. It was this inspiration that led me into becoming a governor at the school, a role that I have been honoured to undertake, and is an absolute privilege to do.”
“We love our school just the way it is and merging it into a larger primary will reduce parent's ability to choose the right setting for their children; it will remove our ability to govern our own school specifically in the best interests of children aged 4-7; it will no longer be the independent, nurturing Springfield we all know and love.”
“I was not enthusiastic about my granddaughter having to go to school in Worthing as the education level is generally average, but Springfield has proved there are exceptions. Merging schools is always counterproductive. When you are lucky enough to have a little gem like Springfield you should nurture it and encourage others to aspire to its heights….not let it get drowned in the soup of mediocrity.”
“As a governor, I am frankly appalled by WSCC’s handling of the consultation in terms of the communication, timing and support given to our school. Whilst our engaged Springfield community have come together in multiple ways to both help our community members to access and understand the consultation as well as display our feelings regarding the consultation, I would not be surprised to hear of a low overall engagement across Worthing as the process is flawed in being overly complicated and terribly worded.”
It is clear from all the testimonies that I have seen that the school is hugely successful and greatly loved within the local community the way it is, and its popularity and success stand to be undermined if it is changed and diluted by becoming part of a larger amalgam of schools.
- Springfield has been consistently rated ‘Good’ by OFSTED and is a high performing school
- Springfield has consistently been oversubscribed and does not have any surplus places to offer up.
- Springfield has a strong and constant leadership and staff with no vacancies and long serving and experienced teachers essential to the ethos and success of the school whose future would be put at risk by these proposals
- Many parents from well out of catchment area chose to make the longer journeys to bring their children to Springfield because of what the school specifically offers.
- Springfield’s finances are sound, and the fabric of the buildings are in good order and every part of the school space put to good use.
- The nursery is also very popular and a conduit into Springfield entry.
I am very proud of the success story that is Springfield School in my constituency. On every level it would be hugely destructive to destroy something that is working so well for so many of my constituents. Not a single person connected with the school is in favour of these proposals and to ignore their very strong and unanimous views would be indefensible. Not a single surplus place would be addressed by removing Springfield from your plans so please leave the school alone. Rarely has there been a more appropriate use of the saying ‘if it ain’t bust don’t fix it’ so please don’t bust Springfield School.