Support Broad Oak School – campaign appeals for action
Earlier this year, the East Sussex Council announced their intention to close the Broad Oak Primary School by August 2020. This news was met with much resistence, and the parents and local community quickly rallied to form a campaign group to fight the closure. Support Broad Oak School was born and battle commenced. Several well attended meetings took place, these brought together key representatives of the ESCC, Local MP Huw Merriman, and concerned parents and members of the community, there were fund raising events and a campaign created. The outcome was an agreed consultation period which commenced on 24 June 2019. The campaign is ongoing and it is now making an appeal to anyone who hasn’t responded to go online* to ESCC, now, before the 11th October deadline.
“A low return of responses hands the school over to ESCC – we need your input as a matter of urgency and thank you for helping to protect the school for future generations.” is the plea from the Save Broad Oak School campaign leaflet.
East Sussex County Council background to the proposed closure
The ESCC argued that reviews of rural primary school provision in East Sussex had been conducted with a report that highlighted a number of rural schools with small and very small pupil numbers. Local demand for places at those schools was analysed alongside the effect this is having on their viability and capacity to offer a well-balanced, high quality curriculum that meets the needs of their local community and makes best use of public funding.
Broad Oak Community Primary School was one of the schools identified in the review, it is a small, rural community primary school with a published admission number of 20 and capacity for 140 pupils. The information and evidence from the review showed that the school has been under-subscribed in each of the last five years and pupil numbers fall significantly short of the school’s published admission number each year. Their conclusion was that it was difficult for the school to be financially viable and to regularly have good outcomes for pupils. They also concluded that there is little in-area demand for places at the school.
The Save Broad Oak School campaign speaks out
The Save Broad Oak School campaign have countered these claims in a detailed leaflet (which can be viewed via their Facebook Page @supportbroadoak) and suggest that the council have not entered into any fair, constructive, meaningful dialogue with the school. By going straight to the consultation process, confidence in the school was shaken and falling numbers became a self fulfilling prophecy. However, demand for school places is rising with current and planned housing developments in the Heathfield area, including Broad Oak, this demand for extra places should ensure financial viability. Negative comments relating to the outcomes for pupils have been countered with KS1 moderated results showing 75% of children achieve expected standard in reading,writing and maths. SBOS also highlight that (unvalidated) KS2 SATS results are inline with National Expected Standards for 2019. OFSTED observations have been taken on board and the acknowledged strong leadership and management of the school have been supported and are on track to deliver a Good rating at the next inspection.
“Rural schools are protected in legislation (Education and Inspection Act 2006) Closure should be a last resort and ‘in the best interests of educational provision in the area’. This negates the claim in the consultation document that closure will improve standards because, as has been proved, Broad Oak CP School’s outcomes for pupils are largely in-line or exceeding Expected National Standard and are often better than other schools within the local area” explains the Support Broad Oak School, Campaign Leaflet.
Parents have their say
Parents have spoken about the importance of choice, and the fact that the school is not a Church of England school, unlike other local schools, which is an important consideration for some parents. Convenience and health for local parents is also being compromised as many can walk their children, but with no alternative within the community another school would necessitate the use of transport to and from school in Heathfield. Many parents have praised the school for the pastoral and special educational needs care and are deeply concerned about the effect on their child of having to move to another school.
*If you do not have internet access you can pop into Heathfield Library to access the consultation online or call Fran on 07426 194287 to arrange for a paper copy to be delivered to you