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woodlands meed SEN school burgess hill WSCC Refuse To State Their Commitment To Complete The Woodlands Meed School Site

13th March 2017

The Governors of Woodlands Meed SEN School have released a statement which updates on their campaign to have the full school site completed. It's not good news.

West Sussex County Council are seemingly abandoning their pledge to relocate the college site at Newick House to the school site at Chanctonbury Road.

The full statement is as follows:

The Governors have recognised that now following the decision of the Department for Education and West Sussex County Council to lease the land allocated for the Key Stage 4 & 5 buildings to Brighton Universities Academies Trust for 120 years, it is impracticable to complete the school on what is left of the Woodlands Meed site. There simply is not enough room.

They have therefore taken the decision to look at the possibility of completing the school by building on the Newick House site to replace the portacabins and prefabricated building in which students were placed “ on a temporary basis” five years ago.

The Task And Finish Group
It was thought that a significant step forward had been taken when Louise Goldsmith, Leader of West Sussex County Council, stated that she “wanted to explore how the council may be able to support governors in securing funding to build a new school” and set up a Task & Finish Group to do so.

The Task & Finish Group is made up of a Council member and officers, the Head Teacher and representatives of parents and governors. At its first meeting on 6 February, the Group agreed that its terms of reference would be:

• Development of proposals for the Newick House site of Woodlands Meed College for inclusion in the County Council’s Capital Programme. 
• Explore and identify methods of Funding.

It agreed to identify the accommodation the school requires to be able to deliver a full curriculum, and to look at the condition of the existing prefabricated buildings.

The outdated, offically not fit for purpose college site at Newick House where SEN pupils aged 14+ are educated

WSCC Reject Joint Press Release Regarding Progress Update On School Site
However, when governors suggested a joint press release to update school supporters on the present position, the Council insisted that the press release should refer not to completion of the school, but to “improvements at the Newick House site”. Three efforts to try to agree the wording of a simple press release have been unsuccessful.

The Governors said that it feels as though someone else is pulling the strings behind the scenes. Despite all the assurances which have been given, the refusal of WSCC to state categorically that it is committed to complete the school is both revealing and disturbing.

The Governors Efforts In Chasing Sources Of Funding
The Governors have been continuing to explore every opportunity and avenue in their fight to complete the school.

They have commissioned their own investigation into potential development at Newick House site and have established that it may well be possible to build on the site, providing all the facilities the school needs, for less than half the £20M price quoted by WSCC.

They have identified that this week, the Department for Education announced capital funding specifically for improving the facilities at existing schools for children with special needs. WSCC have been allocated some £3.5 M over the next three years. As WSCC have always stated that they have not completed the school because the government has not given them any grant money to do so, they have been asked to state how much of this grant will be paid towards Woodlands Meed. The Governors have not yet received a reply to this enquiry.

John Clifton - head of governors addresses the audience at a public meeting in Octoer 2016, held at the Woodlands Meed College site, Newick House.

£1.5m Available To Merely Upgrade The Current College Site

WSCC announced that they had found £1.5M revenue funding which could be spent on Newick House Site, which they proposed to spend on simply replacing the existing portacabins and providing an additional hygiene room. Whilst the Governors heartily welcomed any monies spent on the school, they did not feel that the proposals actually represented best value for money. Replacing like with like, albeit more modern, did not address the critical problem that the school cannot provide a full curriculum due to the lack of accommodation. They agreed with WSCC that this money can be brought forward to the next financial year so that it can contribute to the overall cost of providing a completed school.

Section 106 Money To Help Fund The School

Governors have examined closely the Section 106 contributions which have been paid by developers in the Mid Sussex area over the last few years. It appears to them that there is some £2.5 million available - which could properly be allocated towards the cost of completing the school.

Petition Completed - Full Council To Hold A Debate In Chichester
Deeply concerned by the apparent backtracking by WSCC; school supporters have pressed ahead with the petition to force WSCC to discuss the issue of Woodlands Meed at full Council. Over 4,000 people have signed the petition, demonstrating the strength of support for the school with the general public.

The petition will be debated at County Hall Chichester on Friday 24 March. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend the debate to hold WSCC to account on their obligation to provide a completed Key Stage 1 to 5 school.

Spread the word, West Sussex County Council are reneging on their pledge to complete the Woodlands Meed School site.

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What do you think to this latest turn of events? Are you surprised that WSCC are backing out of their pledge to bring all the SEN education in Burgess Hill to one location?

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