MP asks County Council to evidence Rydon decision

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert has written to West Sussex County Council to ask them to show the evidence behind their decision to dismiss the possibility of Rydon Community School becoming a full 11-16 school.

Mr Herbert has written to Cllr Richard Burrett, the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Education, following the second stage of the public consultation on the future organisation of schools in the STARS area (Amberley, Ashington, St. Mary’s Washington, Storrington, Thakeham and West Chiltington). 

The consultation has set out proposals to bring the Age of Transfer in line with the Key Stages of the National Curriculum.   It proposes that all STARS First Schools become Primary Schools by retaining pupils in Year 6, that Rydon Community College would close and become an extension of Steyning Grammar School for Year 7 and 8 pupils and that Thakeham First School would move onto the Rydon site as Thakeham Primary School. 

In his letter, which follows a meeting with County Council leaders last month, the MP advises that he has listened carefully to the views of parents, head teachers, governors and councillors on the proposed changes to inform his view on this subject.  He goes on to confirm his support for the principle behind the need for the changes to be made. 

But he has also asked the Council to show that the alternative option of Rydon Community School becoming a full 11 to 16 school, perhaps with academy status, has been fully explored.   

Mr Herbert writes “It is not clear to me whether this (the ‘Rydon option’) has not been considered simply because of the cost, or because the County Council believes it is for Rydon to pursue the academy option, or if the option has been fully explored but the reasoning has not been set out fully.  Whatever the reason, it seems to me to be unsatisfactory simply to dismiss a proposal that has some local support, and is the preference of Rydon’s governors, in 142 words.” 

The MP confirms that he has “no objection in principle” to the suggestion that Steyning Grammar School could include Rock Road to become an additional site for years 7 and 8 and that “this may indeed be the best option.”  He also firmly dismisses criticism of Steyning Grammar School.  But he points out that Storrington and the surrounding area is growing, with new houses being built, and he asks the Council to confirm that future school provision will be adequate. 

Mr Herbert has asked the County Council to look again at the possibility of Rydon becoming and 11-16 school with Academy status, pointing out that promoting a diversity of schools and more choice has been the direction of Government policy.  In the letter he suggests that “it does appear that the County Council and the school have not considered this option proactively together.”

Mr Herbert concludes by stating “I do not think it is possible to make a fully informed decision on the merits of the proposals without this analysis.  I am not expressing a preference: I simply wish to be assured that all of the options have been properly explored.  It may indeed be the case that the evidence shows that the Rydon option simply isn’t viable, or is unsatisfactory, and that the County Council’s proposal is the right one.  If that is the case, the County Council’s proposal will have been strengthened since its evidence and reasoning will be transparent.”





   1.     To read Nick Herbert’s letter to West Sussex County Council in full