Concerns about St Mary’s future

St Marys School, Wrestwood Road, Bexhill
St Marys School, Wrestwood Road, Bexhill

A question mark hangs over the future of St Mary’s School and Sixth Form College with the warning more staff wage cuts and redundancies could be on the way.

Parents have been told the worst case scenario would be a fall in the number of children, leading to further cost-cutting.

The skills drain has been devastating. It will take ten years to recover.

Local authorities, such as East Sussex and Surrey county councils, which together fund some 30 youngsters there, have already stated they will make no new placements while the school is still in special measures following its disastrous Ofsted inspection.

And Bexhill MP Greg Barker has expressed concern saying the Trust must “get a grip and take the school forward.”

The chairman of governors at St Mary’s has insisted the school is moving in the “right direction” and he is optimistic that feedback from a recent Ofsted visit (published next Wednesday) will be “positive and encouraging”.

Following a meeting on Friday (March 13) at St Mary’s in Wrestwood Road, mum Tamara Batt claimed that CEO Sharon Menghini and chairman of trustees Don Young informed parents if the number of pupils and students drops to 65 next year there will be more wage cuts and redundancies.

Tamara’s daughter Daisy is 19 and in her final year. Tamara believes that when Daisy’s year leaves at the end of summer term there will be not then be enough intake to make up numbers and that current leadership is not capable of turning St Mary’s problems around. She told the Observer that seven members of staff have left since the Ofsted report was released, bringing the total to almost 150 gone in the last two years.

She is angry at what she says has been happening and commented: “The problem is there is no trust left at the school. St Mary’s was the most astonishingly safe, creative, vibrant place, and that is why people chose it. It was unbelievably fantastic. That reputation has been decimated. The skills drain has been devastating. It will take ten years to recover.”

She added: “The fabric of the school has been decimated. It is not the building, it is the people, the people made it fabulous. They cared first and foremost for seriously damaged children.”

Tamara and husband John last year set up School Gate online so that parents could communicate on any subject but feels some are “scared to join. She has contacted her local MP Joan Ruddock who told her she was “concerned to hear of the problems occurring there” and would contact Minister of State for Schools David Laws.

Gary Palmer of GMB union which represent employees across the board described the atmosphere at the school as “absolutely awful” with staff too afraid to speak out and from discussions he also thinks parents have little confidence in the leadership now.

“There is an awful atmosphere around the place at the moment. A thoroughly miserable place.

Don Young, chair of trustees and governors, said: “Ofsted HMI recently visited and we are very optimistic as their letter will be published next week and is positive and encouraging.

“Trustees and governors firmly believe that we are moving in the right direction’.

“Any school with a reduction in pupil numbers reduces staffing accordingly.

“Due to the third and final year of a college ‘bulge’ leaving naturally as they move onto adulthood combined with fewer new pupils historically entering the school to replace those leaving, we have been preparing for a drop in numbers. We do have a waiting list of pupils. Final pupil numbers are yet to be determined and any reductions in staff necessary will be carefully considered and kept to a minimum. Overall staff numbers have reduced by less than 10 percent against the number of reducing pupil placements of almost 20 percent over the last two years.”