From: Mrs E. Fuller, St. Helens Down, Hastings
As a parent of an ex-Helenswood student, and a long-term member of staff, member of the late PTA of Helenswood and a Governor of Helenswood before the Ark organisation took over the school, I am most disappointed to read of this proposal.
Helenswood is the only girls-only state school in the whole of East Sussex and has been valued both by parents and students for that; many girls are not comfortable mixing in class with boys during early teenage years and feel intimidated by them in classes.
The whole ethos of both schools was the advantage to both girls and boys of receiving single-sex education as it is both known and accepted in educational circles that both do better in single-sex classes during the teenage years.
This is especially true for girls, as it is recognised that they are intimidated by the presence of boys in class, particularly in the STEM subjects that are considered so important in modern education.
Has Ark considered that the reason that both schools have suffered a catastrophic fall in their numbers was not because they are single-sex schools, but because of the recent past leadership styles, the poor results despite all the hard work of the staff, and the loss of the previous excellent reputations of these two schools?
Helenswood in particular had the best pastoral care reputation within the area and many vulnerable students were taken in to Helenswood, having failed to achieve, or been removed from the other two co-educational schools in Hastings.
The Ark organisation was well aware of the condition of the buildings of both schools when they took over, so I cannot see how they can claim that the schools “require significant investment in their buildings” and use this as the reason to close the Helenswood Upper School, presumably for the site to be sold for yet more housing on the already over-crowded Ridge road.
I reiterate that I am extremely disappointed that Ark, having promised such a wonderful future for both Helenswood and William Parker, have failed to deliver – maybe the blame can be placed closer to home?