MP criticises ‘dishonourable’ county council

Sir Nicholas Soames MP. Picture by Steve Robards
Sir Nicholas Soames MP. Picture by Steve Robards
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Sir Nicholas Soames has accused West Sussex County Council of treating one of its schools “dishonourably”.

Sir Nicholas was speaking in Westminster Hall during a debate about school funding when he raised the issue of Woodlands Meed, in Burgess Hill.

The special needs school has been forced to turn children away at the age of 14 as the council has not delivered on its pledge to finish building its site in Chanctonbury Road.

Mr Soames told fellow MPs at the debate last Wednesday: “The situation in West Sussex special needs schools is very serious. Woodlands Meed school in my constituency is a remarkable school, but is in an untenable position.

“Not only has the county council treated it extraordinarily badly and, in my view, dishonourably, over the question of new building to consolidate schools into one, but its financial situation is extremely serious.

“It is impossible for the children at the school to be educated properly without the necessary support staff.

“I make a plea today for children with special needs in West Sussex; they are not getting a fair crack of the whip.”

John Clifton, chair of governors at Woodlands Meed, said: “We are very grateful to Sir Nicholas for highlighting the plight of Woodlands Meed in Parliament.

“He has been a keen supporter of our cause, raising the matter directly with the CEO of the county council, Nathan Every, although, as many people are aware, we still don’t know where we are going to build our college, nor how the money will be found.

“We will continue to press the county council on how they will complete our school and college.”

A council spokesman said: “All parties agree that the current provision at Woodlands Meed should be improved.

“WSCC agreed in August 2016 to replace three double temporary classrooms and build a new hygiene room at the former Newick House site.

“The proposals are currently being discussed with governors to determine the exact specification for the works, cost and timescale. A feasibility study has been completed.

“The siting of Woodlands Meed School on the Oakmeeds Community College campus was subject to determination by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) in 2010.

“This expansion is stated within the OSA determination as being subject to funding been made available.

“We have put in bids for funding from government a number of times, but unfortunately these bids have been turned down.

“The county council wishes to implement the proposal in the report. However, as the proposal is subject to funding, the absence of funding explains why the proposal has yet to be implemented.

“WSCC continues to work with the governors and the school to explore all options and bid for whatever central government funding is available.

“We have asked Nicholas Soames MP to help us lobby for this money. We remain in regular talks with the school and are fully committed to securing a solution to the current issue at Woodlands Meed School.”

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