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Appeal over Crawley free school closure considered
9:43am Wednesday 15th January 2014 in News
Parents were given a glimmer of hope after being told an appeal against a school closure would be considered.
But scores of young children remain in limbo if the closure of Discovery New School goes ahead as planned in April.
Governors at the failing Crawley free school met Lord Nash yesterday to protest at the Department for Education’s decision.
The Montessori primary school was one of the first free schools in the country but received a series of damning Ofsted reports citing poor teaching and leadership.
Its planned closure was announced to the families of the 62 pupils days before Christmas.
Crawley MP Henry Smith, speaking after the meeting in Westminster, said: “We made the case that the school should have more time to turn itself round and I’m pleased to say the minister will consider that.
“It’s about the most positive result we could have hoped for.”
But the Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The decision to close the Discovery New School is final and funding will be withdrawn from the trust at the end of the spring term.
"We are working with West Sussex County Council to ensure the children affected have suitable alternatives in place and their transition is as smooth as possible."
Some pupils have enrolled at new schools and 18 have been placed. But 23 still remain without an option if the closure goes ahead as planned.
Parents criticised the mid-term timing and the shortage of good school places.
Amanda Steaman, from Crawley, said: “At the moment my daughter doesn’t have a new school because the only ones available are rated inadequate.
“It’s really stressful. West Sussex County Council has been no help whatsoever.
“Kids have been going into school crying because they’re being split up from their friends and teachers.”
Parent Ishbel Parmenter said: “The Government has said it would make sure we get new schools but parents are being forced to accept places they might not want because there simply isn’t enough space.”
Melanie King, who pulled her two children out from the school last summer , added: “If they had intervened when we complained, the school would never have shut.
“Families are devastated. The school needed support and a change of leadership but it should never have had to shut.
“It’s a crying shame.”
West Sussex County Council said it was doing all it could to find places for pupils.
It is looking into whether new all-through academy Gatwick School could expand its accommodation.
A spokeswoman said: “Legally we are required to work within our published admissions criteria and this was explained to parents just before Christmas.
“Not to do so would quite rightly leave the council open to challenge from other parents and schools within the area.”
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