Victory in sight in battle over Burgess Hill school

Woodlands Meed School
Woodlands Meed School

A years-long battle to expand a special school in Burgess Hill looks finally set to end in victory.

Parents, governors and school staff have long campaigned for a permanent college to be built at Woodlands Meed School but, up until now, officials have not made money available for the project.

Temporary huts are currently used at the college site in Birchwood Grove Road for older children while younger ones are housed on a more modern site in Chanctonbury Road.

However, West Sussex County Council looks set to agree at a meeting on Friday to earmark £20 million on permanent expansion of the college.

If agreed, the council will allocate the cash in its capital programme with the aim of opening the new college in Birchwood Grove Road in September 2021.

Woodlands Meed headteacher Adam Rowland said: “It’s amazing and it would be absolutely fantastic. It would allow us to to deliver the curriculum which the school was built to do.”

Woodlands Meed was formed in 2012 when two special schools merged. While the younger children have been educated in a new building in Chanctonbury Road, older children have been in a prefabricated building in Birchwood Grove Road - a situation the county council has previously admitted as being “not the best environment for the pupils or the most efficient way to run this school”. Pupils are currently bussed between sites.

The situation was supposed to be temporary until money could be found to complete the Chanctonbury Road site, creating an all-through school for 2-19-year-olds.

As the years passed, that ‘temporary’ position became increasingly untenable, with a lack of space and resources.

Parents and school supporters suffered a huge blow in 2016 when the county council confirmed it had leased the remainder of the Chanctonbury Road land to the University of Brighton Academies Trust. Governors said they were ‘shocked and dismayed.’

Families hit out at the decision saying that it felt like their children were being ‘treated like second class citizens.’ But now parents and school staff look set to finally win their battle.

A decision on earmarking the £20m will be made at a full meeting of West Sussex County Council on Friday. Once agreed, initial designs for the new building will be drawn up.

The county council has been working with Woodlands Meed governing body over a number of months to get to the final funding stage.

Woodlands Meed provides personalised education for its pupils and offers medical therapies, including speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.