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Campaign Launched to Reopen Ripley Primary for New Households

Published on: 20 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 20 Jan, 2021

By Martin Giles

Supporters of the former Ripley primary school are launching a campaign this month aimed at securing its long-term future as a community asset.

After the county council closed the school in August, 2018, trustees and local “friends” took responsibility for the site and buildings. They made improvements and the classrooms were used by a school from a neighbouring village during the first lockdown last year.

The buildings have also been used regularly for other purposes, providing income for the upkeep.

The new campaign aims to establish a new primary school for local children that would also accommodate the expected increase in pupils from area housing developments over the next five years.

Ms Catherine Leeson, for the controlling group, said their plans could help solve the expected gap in future education provision in the area, based on county council figures.

“There is genuine support to re-establish a school in the village, ensuring enough school places exist for children both now and in the future,” she added. “An important step will be to recruit local people to join a new steering group aimed at making that a reality.

“We welcome those who are passionate about our community and the future of the village, especially if they can bring experience in education, marketing or finance to the group’s activities.”

The group aims to work with Ripley-based businesses, local residents and voluntary organisations to encourage recruitment to the group and support the establishment of a local school for local children.

But a spokesperson for the diocese of Guildford, which has not supported attempts to re-open the school, said: “We are looking for a solution that makes full use of the site and protects the future of other local primary schools.

“While local housing developments such as Garlick’s Arch are likely to increase the demand for primary school places, the country council has forecast that these will be provided for in existing undersubscribed schools.

“According to the Local Plan, most of the increase will be from development at Wisley airfield, where a new school is due to be built.

“We seek to work with the site trustees, Friends of Ripley School, and the council to make sure the site is used to meet the needs of both children and families locally, and across Surrey.

“In the short-term, work is underway to determine how the site could be used for continued early years provision and temporary places for children with additional needs from September 2021. We are committed to making this a reality.”

Cllr Julie Iles

County Cllr Julie Iles (Con, Horsleys) said: “I understand the strength of support for a reopening of the village school and I know how hard local people are working to make this happen.

“When I was elected to council I said every child needs a place in a good school. To thrive and succeed a school needs stability in its finances.

“Schools are funded based on numbers of pupils so we have to know proposed developments, such as Garlick’s Arch, may mean additional primary school places are needed over the coming years.

“Any development at the former Wisley airfield will require its own primary school, so pupils are not being transported in and out of the site, given its proximity to already congested road networks and the traffic through Ripley High Street.”

Cllr Colin Cross

Colin Cross, R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace, said: “I wholly support this latest initiative in the ongoing struggle to reopen Ripley primary for our local children.

“At present, the local choice is realistically restricted to Send Primary and this is wrong on many counts. It’s overcrowded and its SATS test results are suffering as a result. Worse still is the deteriorating daily traffic congestion associated with the school.

“We owe it to our residents to clean the air we breathe not to further pollute it and endanger their road safety at the same time.

“Both Ripley and Send Parish Councils share the view that reopening Ripley’s school is the right thing for our villages and its high time SCC endorsed this view and commit to this line of action.”

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