Campaigners trying to save Ripley Primary school given seven-day stay of execution on closure plans

July 11, 2018
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Campaigners battling to save their village school have been given a stay of execution as an alternative option is explored.

Villagers have been fighting to stop Surrey County Council from closing Ripley Church of England Primary School and on Monday a last ditch attempt to save it was put on the table.

SCC leader David Hodge has now given them seven days while the possibility of forming a federation with nearby Shere CofE Infant School is looked into.

There were sighs of relief as Cllr Hodge delivered his verdict at his Council Leader’s Decisions meeting at County Hall.

The offer by Shere head teacher Victoria Voller was outlined earlier in the meeting. She said she and the governors had never been approached by the Diocese of Guildford who were tasked at looking for possible options for the school and finding a suitable Multi Academy Trust for it to join.

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Battle for Ripley Primary School’s future

But addressing Cllr Hodge, she said: “I’m here on behalf of the governors and myself to say we would consider a collaboration with Ripley. Obviously there is a process we have to go through. We do have a good school with good capacity.”

Cllr Hodge was initially concerned as the offer came late after a consultation carried out by SCC, but decided to postpone his decision to go ahead with closing the school until the offer had been explored.

He said he now needed to have it in writing that the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Diocese of Guildford were “happy” with looking at a federation with Shere and that governors and Mrs Voller had addressed his level of criteria set out when assessing whether or not to close the school.

They have until 11am Monday, July 16, to come back with answers.

The campaign to save Ripley Church of England Primary School has been very vocal
(Image: Kelly Brown)

Ripley CofE Primary School, in Wentworth Close, is a voluntary controlled school and maintained by SCC in partnership with the Diocese of Guildford.

In 2015, the then head teacher left and since then only interim heads have been in place.

An interim board of governors was put in place by SCC following two satisfactory/requires improvement Ofsted inspections (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills).

The board of governors resigned in 2017 when the school received a third inadequate rating and the Regional Schools Commissioner ordered it to become part of a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) or close.

Parents were issued a letter in May 2017 encouraging them to “consider alternative schools to Ripley”.

Cllr Hodge was told that it was because of that letter that many of the parents had already taken their children from the school, which now only has 28 pupils. It did have nearly 180 in 2013.

SCC officers said despite the council logo being on the letter which stated that the interim head teachers at the time were taking advice from the council, they were unaware of it until the day it was delivered to parents in May 2017.

Putting forward the case for parents and families in the village, mum Kelly Brown asked for more time while they looked to see if they could make the Shere federation idea work.

She said: “There is a need for our school now and in the future.”

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She said many people were now considering home-schooling their children adding: “SCC has to accept a level of responsibility for their schooling now. We are asking for more time to consider all options including a federation with Shere. By working with a local school we know more children will return.”

Other concerns about the effect housing numbers from the Local Plans of Guildford Borough and Woking Borough councils would have on the area were also raised.

Cllr Julie Iles said more than 1,055 homes are projected for the area around Ripley.

She said: “You cannot take it that a new school would not be part of the development. That would be in due course. In the meantime there are no local school places available.”

They now have to return to County Hall on Monday, July 16, with feedback.

Article source: https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/campaigners-trying-save-ripley-primary-14889005


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