St Bartholomew’s School, which was founded over 150 years ago, is currently under threat of closure.
The school community is resisting this strongly and the testimony of numerous members of staff, pupils and their families has been commendable and moving.
While we acknowledge the current challenge facing the schools within our local authority regarding pupil numbers, we do not believe the answer is to close a good school with one of the most disadvantaged pupil bodies within the city.
The number of objections submitted to the council was impressive. The governing body was among the objectors and we have attempted to offer solutions to our deficit and pupil numbers. Sadly, these have so far been simply dismissed.
It has become all too clear during this process that the administration is paying lip service to the process of consultation and no real discussions have taken place to consider ways in which we might create a sustainable future for St Bart’s.
While we, as a governing body, oppose the closure, we also have to acknowledge that the school may close despite our best efforts.
Aware of that possibility, we have urged the council to extend the process for closure.
I should be clear what I mean by this – not that the process for determining whether or not the school closes is extended but that, if the decision is taken to close, then the school does not close at the end of this academic year.
A longer period in which to help place our pupils into other schools would be essential.
Our school caters for a wonderfully diverse set of pupils. More than 50 per cent are disadvantaged, 50 per cent are non-white British and more than 30 per cent have English as an additional language.
More than 30 per cent have special educational needs and roughly 10 per cent have an education, health and care plan.
The process for moving schools for the majority of our children would be complex but, however much this is mentioned, sadly it seems to be falling on deaf ears.
The council claims to champion the disadvantaged and yet I see little evidence of any championing the disadvantaged in this process.
Surely we can do better for the young people of our city? Yes, we need to try to balance the books and address the issue of pupil numbers within our city but I do believe we can do this at the same time as doing the very best we can to care for the marginalised.
Whatever the outcome may be of this process, it needs careful discernment and reflection. Sadly, those who have the power in this situation seem in too much of a hurry to allow for that to happen.
A statutory consultation started last month and is open until Tuesday 20 February. It is a new consultation and will not take into account responses to the previous consultation. To take part, click here.
Father Ben Eadon is the chair of governors at St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School and the vicar of St Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton.