New specialist school in Mountfield could open this year

The former Mountfield and Whatlington Primary School building, taken in January 2017. The school closed in the summer of 2014
The former Mountfield and Whatlington Primary School building, taken in January 2017. The school closed in the summer of 2014

A specialist school with a capacity of five children could open on the site of a former primary school in Mountfield in September, subject to Ofsted registration.

The site of the old Mountfield and Whatlington Primary School, in Vinehall Road was closed to pupils in August 2014 and put on sale in January 2016.

It was originally marketed as a school and then offered as a development site for £750,000 plus the cost of clearing the site.

Earlier this year, the site was purchased by Acorn Care and Education – the largest combined children’s services group in the UK – to home a specialist school.

The new school could open as early as September under the leadership of Craig Ribbons – the current headteacher of Heath Farm School, near Ashford.

Mountfield Parish Council chairman Peter Miles said: “Craig Ribbons gave a short presentation to parish councillors before the start of the last council meeting. The school will open in September with initially just four or five children and will slowly increase the numbers over time though there will not be very high numbers in the longer term. Mr Ribbons explained that he is looking forward to the school becoming an active part of the community again.

“Acorn’s purchase of the whole site is surely the best possible outcome with the site and buildings being used for exactly what they were originally intended for and for which they are perfectly designed.

“On a practical note, it will be good to have the whole site in active service as this reduces the risk of vandalism.

“Mountfield as a village will be offering Mr Ribbons and his school a very warm welcome.”

The Diocese of Chichester worked with East Sussex County Council to find a viable buyer for the site before Acorn Care and Education approached.

When the school opens in September, it will be targeted at four or five children with learning, physical, social, emotional or behavioural problems.

A spokesman for Acorn Care said: “I am able to confirm that the plan is to open a special needs school later this year/early next year subject to Ofsted registration. Craig Ribbons who is headteacher at Heath Farm School, in Kent, will be responsible for the new school.”