Question mark over future of school site

A school is considering whether to move all its pupils on to a single site.

Ark Helenswood Academy says it is carrying out a ‘feasibility study’ as to whether all students should be taught on the Lower School site from September next year, leaving a question mark hanging over the future of the Upper School site further along The Ridge.

In a letter sent to parents last week, principal Tracy Dohel said that pupils would not be moving from the Lower School to the Upper School site this September.

The letter said: “I am able to confirm that our current Year 9 students will be remaining on the Lower School site in September 2017.

“I realise that there has been a long delay in informing you of this but we have had to wait for our new timetable to be written and rooms provisionally allocated before a final informed decision could be made.

“An additional reason for this is that we are currently conducting a feasibility study to look at the entire Academy being housed on the Lower School site from September 2018.

“If that move goes ahead it will be far less disruptive to our Year 9 students during their GCSE studies to let them remain at the same location throughout.

“We are also proposing that some sixth form lessons will take place on the Lower site.”

One Helenswood parent, who did not want to be named, told the Observer: “As parents we’ve long suspected this was on the cards – there’s such a lot of money to be made from that Upper School site and I’ve not seen Ark spend any money on the buildings there.

“I’m glad they’ve planned ahead and thought of the exam disruption, though.

“It is crazy having two sites in many respects but my daughter did benefit from the Lower School not having the older children there too – it made the transition from primary school less daunting.

“I’m just surprised it’s taken them so long to do it.”

A spokesperson for the school said: “Ark Helenswood Academy is conducting a feasibility study to look at the entire school being housed on the Lower School site with the long-term goal to support educational improvement at the school and benefit students and staff.”

Ark leases the land from East Sussex County Council on a 125-year lease limited to educational purposes.

The Department for Education has the final say in terms of how the sites can be used.