'Disgust' over council's fresh delay in building new school for children with special educational needs

  • Watch: Video report on the latest delays. Includes interviews with parents and school Governor Marion Wilcock

Parents say they are 'disgusted' after another setback in a project to build a new school for children with special educational needs in Sussex.

West Sussex County Council was told to make a decision by next Tuesday on the future Woodlands Meed College in Burgess Hill.

However, that decision has now been pushed back until the end of next month at the earliest as the authority hasn't yet completed a review into the current facilities.

Governors, parents and campaigners say that review is unnecessary as the college buildings have already been deemed not fit for purpose.

Classrooms are in porta-cabins, the corridors aren't big enough for specialist wheelchairs and the toilet is outside.

Council leader Paul Marshall in December 2019 describing the delays as an 'embarrassment' Credit: ITV Meridian

At a meeting last month, West Sussex County Council's leader admitted the delays were 'embarrassing'.

Louise Kidd has a child with autism currently at Woodlands Meed school. A brand new building elsewhere in Burgess Hill.

She wants to send her son to the college site but is concerned that the new facilities won't meet her son Thomas' needs, and finds the situation 'disgusting'.

Thomas Kidd's mother Louise is concerned over the delays to Woodlands Meed Credit:

"Absolutely disgusted, appalled, I cannot believe for one moment they are letting these children down in such a disgraceful way and just treating them like a piece of paper - a statistic."

Louise Kidd, Parent

Woodlands Meed: Ten years of broken promises

  • Ten years ago Woodlands Meed was told a new building would be delivered.

  • Seven years ago its younger students moved into a brand new building elsewhere in the town. Its teenage pupils, who are aged between 15 and 19, began lessons in classrooms which were only meant to be temporary.

  • In February 2019, West Sussex County Council confirmed £20 million would be allocated for a new building with the aim of completing it by 'September 2021'.

"We've now had years of enduring a situation of what was ever only meant to be temporary accommodation. We can't deliver the full curriculum, we cant comply with all the needs of our students and at the moment there is no prospect of that situation resolving itself."

Marion Wilcock, Governor at Woodlands Meed
Screenshot from the council website of an article which says a new school should be built by September 2021 Credit:

The council’s website still has article from last February which says it aims for a new building in September 2021 but that will not happen.

Today the authority said it’s awaiting a survey of the existing building’s condition followed by a full review before giving any decision.

A meeting will take place on January 28th looking at the potential funding of £20 million for Woodlands Meed but the council has given no guarantees that a new school will finally be delivered.

Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: "We appreciate that the children, parents, teachers and governors of Woodlands Meed are anxious for building work to start and I am keen to support them as much as we can. It is vital that we make sure we deliver value for money and spend available funds on improving facilities for SEND children right across West Sussex."