Some 443 people signed an online petition started by West Molesey mum Rebecca King and the issue made the front page of the Elmbridge Guardian paper in June.
Around 240 pupils currently leave Molesey’s four primary schools each year and have to travel to neighbouring Esher High or Rydens Academy in Walton (or further). This adds to the congestion on the roads whereas a school in Molesey would be in walking or cycling distance and be a healthier option.
This is also an issue about Molesey, a not insubstantial town, being able to ‘stand on its own two feet’ by providing for its own children rather than having to bus them out to neighbouring districts.
Rising birthrates have sent the demand for schools places soaring, and Surrey County Council is responding by spending at least £261million to expand provision.
I am of the view that it is time for a serious consideration of whether Molesey should have a high quality senior school again, after a 30 year gap since its last one was closed. The initial issues for debate are where a school might it be sited and how it would be funded.
I raised the matter with Cllr. Linda Kemeny, who is responsible for schools’ policy at Surrey County Council. She said the council is providing 870 places in four Elmbridge secondary schools. It forecasts the demand for places to reach a high point of 891 in 2015 but then fall to around 837 in 2019.
The official line from Surrey is that it believes it can address the demand by expanding existing schools and does “not feel there is a basic need for additional secondary school places in the Moleseys”.
So the way forward may be for local campaigners to appeal over the heads of Surrey, and seek funds from the government in order to open a free school. We will keep you updated, and you can find out more by searching for Secondary School for Molesey on Facebook.