New school site still undecided – but council says it will still open next year

Posted On 16 May 2017 at 3:38 pm

Brighton parents say they are losing faith that a new school will open next year as a site has still not been secured – but the council insists it still expects to take its first pupils in September 2018.

Brighton and Hove City Council remains in “complex” talks with the owners of two sites, one by City College and the other by Brighton General Hospital – but despite saying it hoped to make an announcement in March, none is yet forthcoming.

And meanwhile, another set of proposals for a shake up in catchment areas for 2019 is being prepared which parents will be asked to have their say on in October – with rumours that the new school will be put in the same catchment as Longhill which will take pupils from the east of the existing Stringer and Vardean catchment.

The new school, which will be run by the University of Brighton Academies Trust, will not have any catchment in its first year, and accept applications from across the city – but some parents of year 5 pupils say they are reluctant to consider the school as so little information about it is available.

One parent, Carol Brailsford who has a daughter in year 5 at Elm Grove, said: “I’m certainly not going to apply for a school that I can’t look around, with a prospectus that I can’t read and a headteacher I can’t meet.

“My daughter and her year were going to be the guinea pig year but I think everyone’s given up on the new school. Even the emails we signed up for information have gone quiet.”

A council spokesman said: “We’re still looking at two sites. Complex negotiations are ongoing, and we will make an announcement as soon as we can

“Our expectation remains that the new school will open in September 2018.

“We recognise the need to change the current admission arrangements to accommodate the new school and the increase in secondary school pupil numbers.

“The council’s cross-party working group on school admissions will be considering a number of options over the next few months. This work will take into account feedback from last year’s public engagement exercise on secondary admissions, as well as more recent representations and petitions.

“We expect to start formal public consultation this October about secondary school admissions arrangements for September 2019.

“By this time we will know where a permanent site for the trust’s proposed new secondary free school will be located.

“The trust has indicated that it is keen to be part of the Brighton and Hove family of schools and so will look to be part of our full admission arrangement from September 2019.”

A spokesman for the University of Brighton Academies Trust said: “Brighton and Hove City Council is responsible for providing a site for the new school, which must be approved by the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency.

“Once the site is secured the ESFA is responsible for funding the required building or refurbishment costs.

“The university and trust are offering comments and suggestions on the prospective sites, but we are not able to directly influence the negotiations between the landowners and the council.

“We know our colleagues at the council are working very hard to progress discussions with the prospective site owners, and remain fully committed to the delivery of the new school.”

The new school was first announced in March 2015, and approved by the government the following February. In March 2016, it was revealed that the search had been narrowed to the two sites still under contention, with City College then believed to be the frontrunner.

However, more than a year later, it is still not clear which site will be used. The delay also led to the postponement of plans to shake up the city’s catchments, which were due to undergo a comprehensive overhaul last year in time for September 2018 applications.

Three new catchment schemes options were proposed, ranging from one catchment per school to big catchments with three or four schools. A working group came up with a fourth option, with one or two schools per catchment and pupils on free school meals having a higher priority for 15% of places to address the disparity in school neighbourhoods.

Following an outcry from parents in the large catchment feeding just BACA who are angry at their lack of choice of school, it’s rumoured that BACA and Patcham may go into the same catchment.

And the new school, which under the last published proposals would be in a three-school catchment with Dorothy Stringer and Varndean, could instead be put in the same catchment as Longhill, which would be expanded to the west.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    This had been settled some while ago as the old Hospital. What has happened?

    This Administration is dragging its heels over so much.

  2. Rolivan Reply

    It is time an investigation is made as to the running of the Council.The Directors and Officers are not up to the job.Why are decisions taking so long and why is everything shrouded in secrecy?

  3. Stressed mother Reply

    Baca parents are angry at lack of school choice ?

    I’m sorry but children should be able to go to there local school?

    If my child has to travel to Baca when Patcham high is a five minute walk , this indeed will make me and other parents also angry !

  4. Samantha Fearn Reply

    I am one of the ‘angry’ BACA parents…. I petitioned against the proposed catchment changes as they were grossly unfair. Three schools in one central catchment to the exclusion of children on the periphery with only one school ‘choice’ in theirs is absolutely not on. It was also a campaign for children in the patcham catchment that could be excluded in the future. Coldean residents. I gained over 1,300 signatures and presented our argument at full council in January. (Available on council website as a webcast). Our argument was that all children needed the same level of choice. For arguments sake, I live at the top of Coombe road where there are no local secondary schools. The nearest is Dorothy Stringer which my area has been excluded from whereas children at the marina are included. How fair is that?

  5. Marcus Reply

    What are the issues at the heart of the “complex negotiations”? Maybe a bit more transparency would help manage parents’ expectations.

  6. Stressed mum Reply

    Can totally sympathise with you, Coombe road does not have any “local” secondary school ,

    My agurment is that why should Patcham children potentially be sent to Baca having to get two buses when they have a high school on their doorstep?

    Clearly a secondary school in the Brighton general area is needed!

    Another frustrating part of this debate is the fact that “low income families” and Not living in the Patcham area have priority over my children who have parents in full time employment and within walking distance to the school. I think I speak on behalf of many parents who would be against their young children travelling by public transport at such a young age when it’s totally unnecessary, to an area which is unknown to them.

    When making the decision on where to house our family, we did so, based on our local schools, which didn’t include Baca.

  7. Kristie Scarle Reply

    I’m sure you don’t mean to come across as rude as you sound. Every child in this city deserves a choice – regardless of whether or not they have 2 working parents. You don’t know everyone’s circumstances. I’m sure you don’t really think that because a family don’t have two working parents, or can’t afford to move to a different catchment, that they should just go where they are told to? You do know that there are already lots of children who have to travel by bus to get to even their closest school? There is no ideal fix, but a system which gives choice, and a good social mix is good for all of the next generation.

    I currently live in the Patcham catchment, but the Council’s last published proposal moved us out! This got me interested, and it was then I came to understand the wider issues affecting children’s education across the City. All children should have a choice.

  8. Hjarrs Reply

    Labour locally making yet another mess of it! No surprise there.

    But at the heart of the problem is the Conservative government’s chaotic education policy that rips up strategic planning and results in private companies profiteering. The result is expensive and wasteful oversupply in some areas and shortage where places are needed. The children’s education is the last priority it seems.

    Don’t worry though, there are plenty of suckers that will continue to vote for the Conservatives on 8th June to continue this mess and to condemn their children to secondary moderns!

  9. Jake marks Reply

    It’s doesn’t matter what school your children go to! At the end of the day it’s down to the child how well they do at concentrate in class, listen to the teachers and give 100%. A school provides the tools it’s up to the children to use them.

  10. Parent Reply

    It’s never going to be a perfect system and needs to balance conflicting priorities. If you have a catchment that runs from Saltdean to Brighton station with Longhill and the new school both in it you will have children making very long journeys passing each other going in the opposite direction. If you don’t do it then Longhill will struggle as long as the parents of kids in Hanover, Queens Park and Kemp Town don’t send their kids there. No easy answers.

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