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Diocese Decision Represents a New Threat to Ripley School, Say Campaigners

Published on: 6 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 6 Oct, 2021

By Martin Giles

Campaigners fear that moves by Guildford Diocese aimed, they say, at dissolving the current management arrangements for the Ripley School site could mean the village school will be lost forever.

The school was closed in 2018 and has been used for community and other activities since then, including as a short term temporary school during the pandemic last year.

The Friends of the School, which provides the day to day management of the site, say the promise to re-open the school made by Surrey County Council, Guildford Diocese and Bishop Andrew during local consultations regarding its future has been forgotten.

Clare Grimes and Catherine Leeson from the Friends Group, with Simon Moxon, Ripley Parish Councillor

Catherine Leeson, from the Friends Group, explained that in the light of planned housing it would mean that 210 additional primary places will be needed by 2026, excluding Wisley airfield.

A leaflet campaign has been launched by the Friends with the support of Ripley Parish Council, the Vicar and Churchwardens of Ripley Parish.

She said: “It means other primary schools will have to ‘bulge’ in order to accommodate extra school places and the opportunity to use the existing premises and outdoor field, which are in good order, will go to waste.

“Budgets are under pressure but using the asset we already have is the best option for the
educational welfare of our children and makes most sense financially and environmentally.”

The campaigners fear that the site will be sold off or at best, leased on a long term arrangement with a different use, and are urging local residents and businesses to ‘Act Now’ and raise objections to the Department for Education (DfE) over the Section 554 application recently made by the Diocese.

But a spokesperson for the Diocese of Guildford said: “The claim by the Friends of Ripley that bulge classes will be needed in other local schools to accommodate extra places needed is unfounded and not supported by the place planning data provided by Surrey County Council which shows no significant increase in primary places required for the next 10 years.

“There are many surplus places which currently exist in local schools in the planning area and these places will be used if there is any local need for primary places in the short term.

“The Diocese has no plans to sell the site for development. Our intention in applying for the Section 554 order is that the school site and buildings can be used for much needed Special Educational Needs provision for children who require specialist support outside of mainstream schooling.”

“After careful consideration and liaison with the Charity Commission, the Diocese of Guildford has made a Section 554 application to the Department of Education, to release the former Church of England school site at Ripley so that it can be used for wider purposes beyond its current trust restrictions, which require the site to be used for Church of England educational provision only.”

The decision by the Diocese to apply for the Section 554 order comes after three years of negotiation with local site trustees and their managing agents about the long-term future of the site.

The spokesperson continued: “The Diocesan Board of Education (DBE) has been seeking to use the school site and buildings for much needed Special Educational Needs (SEND) provision for children across Surrey, however despite interest and support of Surrey County Council for this purpose, it has not been possible to reach agreement with the local site trustees.

“Due to a fall in demand for primary places across the county, current modelling of primary school places by the Local Authority illustrate that there is not sufficient demand to reopen or for a new primary school in the Ripley and Send planning area for at least the next 10 years, despite local housing developments at Garlick’s Arch and Wisley Airfield, which is due to have its own primary school as part of the new development.

“The Guildford Diocese decision to submit the Section 554 application was not taken lightly and comes nearly three years since the school closed. After rigorous modelling and forecasting, it is the view of the Diocesan Board of Education and Surrey County Council that the school site is not needed for additional primary provision, and is suitable for use as a location for Special Education Needs (SEND) provision, which would create urgently needed specialist school places for Surrey’s children.”

A SCC spokesman said: “We understand the strength of support for the reopening of the village school and appreciate how hard local people are working in order to make this happen.

“Surrey County Council constantly reviews school places to ensure they are in the right places for when communities need them.

“Any future decision in relation to school places will be carefully considered based on the number of new pupils we expect to arrive in the area due to new nearby developments.”

Cllr Colin Cross

Colin Cross, the R4GV borough and county councillor for the area, said: “It was only ever a matter of time before Guildford Diocese made their move to overturn almost 200 years of Ripley’s churchwardens and parishioners having sole responsibilities for their village school.

“Sadly, over the last decade, the diocese showed their true colours as they ruthlessly ran down the school and its ability to remain a successful part of our village life.
“The very fact that its last four years went by without it ever having a permanent headteacher appointed tells you everything you need to know.
“Maybe someone up there will decide to forgive them, but it will not be a Ripleyite.”

 

 

 

 

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