Liberal Democrat West Sussex County Councillors Morwen Milson and Nigel Dennis have written to the WSCC Cabinet and issued a press release regarding the chaos caused by the rejection of plans for two Horsham primary schools to open to Year 2 to 5 pupils this week.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday 29 June 2020
West Sussex County Council causes chaos and disappointment in Horsham primary schools
Today, Kingslea and Heron Way Schools in Horsham were due to welcome back Year 2 to 5 pupils so they could join the core year groups of Reception, Year One and Year Six pupils at school for the final weeks of term.
These plans, which involved a part time rota and the investment in marquees and specialist cleaning equipment, were developed in full consultation with parents, and the school gave advance notice to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) officers.
But last Thursday Conservative-controlled WSCC rejected the plans saying that schools had gone against guidance and could only open up to additional year groups if they provided full time places to the core year groups.
WSCC had earlier, in an email to schools on 10th June, stated that it did not support phasing back additional year groups but stopped short of banning schools from opening up further, only asking schools considering this to reflect on their plans. WSCC then proceeded to reiterate its support for individual schools’ decision-making stating, “We fully support you in the decisions being made.”
Responding to WSCC’s actions, Liberal Democrat Cllr Morwen Millson (Horsham Riverside) said, “These two schools developed their plans for bringing all pupils back to school over several weeks with the knowledge of WSCC officers. They communicated their plans with families, and children began to look forward to returning to school, but WSCC pulled its support at the last minute. The Department for Education (DfE) and WSCC guidance is such a mess that it has been reported to us that even Horsham’s MP, Jeremy Quin, thought that his own government’s advice endorsed the Kingslea and Heron Way approach.”
Cllr Dr Nigel Dennis (Horsham Hurst) said, “Horsham Liberal Democrats stand firmly alongside the teachers, parents and children of Kingslea and Heron Way who have been victims of the Conservative Party’s chaotic approach to the return to schools. Neither the DfE nor WSCC has ever mandated the approach schools should take. With three weeks of term left, it is too late in the day for them to mandate this now.”
Cllr Kirsty Lord (West Sussex Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson) said, “The Conservative Government’s guidance to schools has always stated that schools could take alternative approaches if they wished. Conservative-controlled WSCC has similarly only ever issued guidance rather than rules, and has always expressed its full support for localised decision making by schools.
A combination of Government guidance that not even Conservative MPs appear to understand and the Conservatives’ confusing actions in West Sussex have created chaos and disappointment for schools and families. Teachers and families have been under unprecedented pressure for months and should not have their plans changed at the last minute by a Conservative Party that cannot make up its mind whether it wants decisions to be made by the DfE, the Council or schools.”