An “urgent meeting” of councillors formally signed off funding of £2 million for school places for a group of Brighton children known as the “misplaced 38”.
But officials have been asked to spend a bit more time fleshing out detailed plans for a further £13 million to be spent over the next few years.
The £2 million will be spent enabling Dorothy Stringer and Varndean schools to take in the extra 38 pupils in September. They were initially allocated places at schools outside their catchment area.
Stringer will also use some of the funding to create the capacity for a bigger intake of students – as previously agreed – in September 2019 and 2020.
The plans were signed off by three members of Brighton and Hove City Council at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Monday 30 April).
The council’s Children, Young People and Skills Urgency Sub-Committee, which signed off the spending, will share out the remaining £13 million among other schools.
Projects in the running include more work at Varndean as well as work at Blatchington Mill, Hove Park, Patcham High and Longhill – and possibly others.
The Green and Conservative members wanted more detail, they said. The sub-committee formally asked for more information about how best the funds could be put to use to be brought back to a future meeting for further debate.
Councillor Alex Phillips, who speaks for the Greens on education, said afterwards: “There’s some relief for the families about the school places for this September. It’s been very difficult for families around the city.
“It’s hard enough for Varndean and Stringer. They’re always oversubscribed. Imagine what it’s like for Longhill.”
Referring to the “basic needs” funding for later school years and the decision to send back the initial spending allocations to be fleshed out, Councillor Phillips said: “It’s not an easy calculation to make but it’s important to get it right.
”It needs to be justified properly. There needs to be a thorough report.”
Details are due to be brought back before councillors by the summer holidays for the work to accommodate the misplaced 38. And a further report in the autumn will spell out more detail on other work.
Before the meeting Cardinal Newman head James Kilmartin said: “We are concerned about the process by which the proposal has been arrived at and the proposal itself.
“About half the funding has been allocated to schools which have spare places, ie, are undersubscribed.
“Cardinal Newman is consistently oversubscribed. As a consequence of the demand, we have had to take on extra students in recent years and are now at 360 which is the largest in the city with a recent increase from 341 to 360.
“We have received no funding for our facilities to take on this extra pressure and our dining area, classrooms and PE facilities are in real need of this financial support.
“School head teachers have not been included in any of the discussions or meetings to decide how the funds should be allocated.”
Dr Kilmartin said that the council was being made aware of Newman’s concerns and he urged “all of our parents and carers to contact their councillors as a matter of urgency”.
Councillor Phillips said: “Labour messed it up. And the Conservatives nationally are putting all schools in the city in such a desperate situation that they’re crying out for money.”
The Labour administration’s case is that it had to rethink its plans because the situation changed when Brighton University dropped its plans to open a new secondary school in Brighton.
This was partly in response to revised forecasts of pupil numbers – there will be more students but earlier forecasts suggested an even higher number.
It was also partly a reflection of a strong behind the scenes push by secondary school heads to allow them to soak up the “population bulge”.
With budgets getting tighter, they had concerns about the financial – and educational – future of up to half the city’s secondary schools if another school opened.
With local elections just a year away, this is a subject where the debate has the potential to become more heated.