Campaign launched to fight ‘ill thought out’ Easebourne school plans

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A joint campaign is being mounted to fight ‘ill thought out’ proposals to expand Easebourne Primary School.

Concerns have been expressed following the unveiling of a county council plan to double the yearly intake at Easebourne from 30 to 60 pupils.

Midhurst town councillors are voicing their united opposition to West Sussex County Council. Their concerns are shared by the town’s Chichester district councillors Gordon McAra and Steve Morley. Midhurst’s county councillor Kate O’Kelly is planning to go to the county council with a case to safeguard small village schools.

At a full town council meeting last night (Monday, November 20), Cllr Morley told fellow town councillors he believed the consultation event held at Easebourne was flawed: “It was incredibly misleading. There are a lot of smoke and mirrors going on.”

Calling for further consultation and information for parents in Midhurst and Easebourne he said: It’s not clear enough and a lot of people don’t even know there is a consultation at all. We need clearer details of what the county council is proposing. They owe it to us.”

Condemning the consultation and the proposals he said they had been ’ill thought out and inadequate.”

Campaigners fear the county council is planning to merge the catchment area for Midhurst and Easebourne which could have an impact if one school was more in demand than the other. They are also concerned this could ‘squeeze out’ smaller village schools such as Stedham Primary and even Hollycombe at Milland: “These school could have less and less children, get less funding and after a few years we could end up with another building site,” said Cllr Gordon McAra.

The Rev David Coote the proposals had caused a ‘significant amount of anxiety’. He believed concentrating children in larger primary schools was a ‘grave mistake’ and not for the benefit of many who could not cope in larger classrooms.

Kate O’Kelly is planning to make a case to fellow county councillors to safeguard small village schools in her division.

She told the meeting the schools were under threat from a new funding formula and now the added concern over the expansion of Easebourne Primary School.

“These small schools are at the heart of their villages, she said, “if they closed it would have an enormous impact on the village.

“These are incredibly important issues - the funding formula is the bottom line, but the Easebourne expansion is definitely putting more pressure on the system. There is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety.”

She said she believed the expansion proposals had been ‘very poorly handled.”

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