Children write heartbreaking letters after plans to use empty school building stopped

Children at a primary school in West Horsley have written heartbreaking letters expressing their disappointment after they were prevented from returning to the classroom.

Approximately 60 Year 5 pupils from The Raleigh School were hoping to return to school on Monday (June 29) after an invitation to use space at the closed Ripley Primary School site was accepted.

However, four days prior, South Farnham Educational Trust, which runs the school, had to inform parents that the plans had fallen through due to the threat of legal action by the Diocese of Guildford.

Many children “burst into tears” upon hearing the news and some even wrote letters, which were sent to MP Gavin Williamson via the Department for Education (DfE).

One letter read: “When I first heard the good news that we were going to Ripley, I was ecstatic with joy and nothing could make me happier that I was seeing my teachers and friends.

“I got really delighted and happy, until Thursday, when I was told by my dad that it had been prevented. I was devastated, I was annoyed, my heart was ripped, my learning was being cancelled, all that work gone to waste.”

While another pupil wrote: “I now feel let down and confused because why can’t we use a school, to improve our education, which is not being used? Do you even care about our education?.”

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A letter from one of the pupils

After seeking legal advice, the trustees of the Ripley school sent out an invitation to four schools in the area in May, offering the use of classroom space at the Newark Lane site.

The Raleigh School accepted the offer “enthusiastically” and said it carried out all the necessary arrangements and risk assessments to ensure it was safe for pupils and staff.

However, the diocese said it liaised with the DfE and Regional Schools Commissioner and was “advised not to use the buildings for this purpose”.

A diocese spokesperson said: “The DfE has confirmed that the unregistered school site cannot be used for educational purposes under the current Government guidelines and the DfE’s own guidance confirms this.”

Another pupil from the Northcote Crescent school described the news as “heartbreaking” and said “nothing would make me happier than to laugh with my friends again”.

Their letter read: “We are missing out on our important learning without our teachers. We have not seen our friends for months. My heart has been pulled out by not being able to see my friends.

“Some children are lucky to be at school and it is really lonely and hard, working at home without a teacher explaining to you. Our mind is torn apart.”

After the original plans fell through, the diocese offered The Raleigh School the opportunity to use Esher Church of England High School instead.

However, this proposal was considered to be an “unsafe solution” by head teacher Fiona O’Neill.

A spokesperson for The Raleigh School said “discussions are ongoing” and they hope “a sensible and pragmatic solution can be found to what seems a straight forward problem”.

Pupils were hoping to use the former Ripley School Primary site which closed in the summer of 2018

Diocesan director of education Alex Tear said: “We understand that many parents are keen to see their children return to school as soon as possible but most importantly when it is safe to do so.

“Our main priority is the safety of children and school staff and we take these responsibilities very seriously. The main school buildings at Ripley are no longer a registered school site and have not been used for nearly two years.

“We have been advised by the Department for Education that opening the buildings at this stage of the school term could expose children to risks which would not be responsible or conducive to a good learning environment for the children.”

Surrey Live – News