Parents angry that a new secondary school which was intended to serve children in the east of the city will now take pupils from more affluent central neighbourhoods have started a petition which has already been signed by 150 people.
A comprehensive shake-up of the city’s catchment areas was proposed earlier this year, with options ranging from separate catchments for each school to just three catchments with a lottery allocation system to increase the chances of people living further away from popular schools of getting a place.
Following an extensive consultation, and an outcry from Fiveways parents who would lose out on places at Dorothy Stringer and Varndean, this plan was scrapped and the existing catchments tweaked instead.
However, Coldean was added to BACA’s catchment, which is still the only school for children in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean.
And instead of serving Bevendean, Whitehawk and other eastern areas, the new school looks set to become part of the catchment which already contains Dorothy Stringer and Varndean – meaning pupils living in those areas will have a good chance of going to one of three schools.
One reason for this was concerns over school journeys in large catchments – but schools’ and teachers’ concerns about school viability, which could be an issue for less popular schools such as BACA if it failed to attract enough pupils, were also a factor.
To address concerns about the social mix of the city’s schools, each school will have to allocate 15% of its places to children receiving free school meals – but this will not help poorer families not on the necessary benefits.
The news was greeted with anger by Bevendean parents. Laura Holman said: “So the new school (which was intended to serve the east of the city) is now proposed to be in the Varndean/DS catchment, giving the parents of these children yet another school choice, whilst leaving us in the BACA catchment no better off whatsoever.”
And Chantal Spencer said: “I’d like to see a real opportunity for poorer families to not have to send their kids to the worst schools. My daughter leaves at 7.10am every morning so she can get to Hove Park on time, she has a chronic health condition and the journey has already started taking its toll on her.
“My son is nine and likes knitting and unicorns, he’d be eaten alive at BACA. So he’ll have to do the same journey as his sister does now.
“The threshold for free school meals is very low. My partner and I work but are on low incomes. To be honest, that token gesture just makes me more annoyed.
“It’s a tiny little nugget to make people feel better about opposing the changes when they know that they’re really condemning thousands children to crap schooling and bullying.”
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