Plans to move Holy Cross Primary School from the centre of Uckfield to a new site at Ridgewood Farm received support at a meeting last week, according to a report on the school website.
The report says: “There was generally support from those present … and recognition that it would be a good move for the school.”
Seventeen parents attended the meeting on Thursday, November 13, along with eight members of staff and with governors. Governors have agreed in principle to enter into formal consultations about the proposal.
The meeting report said numbers of children at Holy Cross had steadily declined. There were around 400 pupils when it opened in 1964. Today there are 128.
In addition the school buildings were in a poor condition, with flat roofs on a very open site. It suffered severe storm damage in 1987 and again in 2013.
Problems listed included: “Not energy efficient, poor internal layout stairs and steps, no provision for disabled access. Vehicular access is very poor for both coaches and HGV deliveries.”
There are budget problems too because funding for schools is based primarily on pupil numbers and the current budget is very small to manage the buildings and the large site occupied.
Advantages of moving to Ridgewood and having a two-form entry school were reported as including:
Defined catchment area from new houses;
Greater opportunities for cross-class activities within year groups. Teachers can work and plan together and share good practice;
Broad and enriched curriculum with more opportunities for extra-curricular activities;
Educationally preferable, offers better development for staff, more attractive recruitment and retention;
Financially more stable, funding per pupil, economies of scale, budget would go further and more could be spent on teaching and learning than ancillary and building;
An opportunity to address the problems affecting the existing school.
The distance from the parish church for acts of worship,
The distance of siblings who currently live near the school and
A break with traditional arrangements.
The report says: “Based on previous new housing developments governors believe a further new primary school at Ridgewood would reduce our numbers even more and if staying in the town were an option it would be a one-form entry school which would mean future growth would be limited.
“Governors also believe that this proposal could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a new school with modern facilities and it would secure the future of the school for many years to come.”
The Diocese of Chichester owns the school buildings while East Sussex County Council owns the playing field. The governing body manages the school on behalf of the diocese.
In 1998/99 Tesco had asked to buy some of the playing field to expand their store. That was refused.
In 2008 a master plan to redevelop the town centre was drawn up but did not proceed because of the economic situation.
Governors learned earlier this year that with the upturn in the economy and the additional housing being planned for Uckfield, the redevelopment of the town centre was now possible again and that it was the intention of the joint councils that the school site be included.
The report, following the meeting with parents, said that initial proposals were to move the school to the northern end of Luxfords car park but this would be a one-form entry school of 210 pupils on a small site. The county council did not support this idea.
“A new housing development at Ridgewood includes a one-form entry primary school and the county council’s proposal is to make that a two-form entry school (420 pupils) and relocate Holy Cross to that development which would free up the existing site for town centre development.