Parents given chance to have their say on school catchments – again

Posted On 27 Sep 2017 at 3:09 pm

Another consultation on changes to school admissions arrangements starts on Monday – the second in two years in which parents will have their say.

Last year, three different proposals to solve the thorny issue of balancing parent choice across the city with school viability while pupil numbers are on the rise were all rejected by parents for a variety of reasons.

Meanwhile, the opening of a new secondary school, possibly at the Brighton General Hospital site, was postponed after negotiations to secure the land were not finalised in time.

Now, a temporary two-year solution from September 2019 is being proposed which does not include the new school, and instead tweaks the catchment of the popular Dorothy Stringer and Varndean Schools, shrinking it so that there should no longer be more pupils living in their catchment than they can admit.

Last year, 57 pupils in its catchment were given places at different schools. It’s likely there will be a similar number this year, but it is too late to make changes to the catchments for the 2018 intake.

The new school, which is now “expected” to open in September 2019, would have its own admission arrangements, using home to school distance as the tiebreaker if it is oversubscribed.

Residents are also being asked for their views on proposals to reduce admissions numbers at five primary schools in the city. The schools are:

  • West Hove Infant (Connaught Road site)
  • Moulsecoomb Primary
  • Coombe Road Primary
  • Benfield Primary
  • Hertford Infant.

Forecasts of future pupil numbers at primary level indicate that there will be a reduction in numbers across the city in the coming years. This follows a bulge in pupil numbers in recent years. The aim is to ensure the future viability of all the city’s primary age schools.

The secondary school catchment areas proposals have been prompted by two factors. One is that rising pupils numbers are causing pressure on school places in some catchment areas.

The other is the decision by the Education and Skills Funding Agency to delay the opening of the new University of Brighton Academies Trust secondary free school, which will be called the Brighton and Hove Academy.

The proposals have been deliberately designed to be as ‘light-touch’ as possible, and to take into account as many factors as possible including accessibility and travel times.

They include three measures aimed at the Dorothy Stringer / Varndean catchment area:

  • An area north and east of Elm Grove would be incorporated into the Longhill High School catchment
  • An area at the northern end of the catchment area would be incorporated into the Patcham High School catchment area
  • Two areas to the west of the catchment area would be incorporated into the Blatchington Mill / Hove Park catchment area.

With regards to the Blatchington Mill / Hove Park catchment area:

A section to the west of the catchment area would be incorporated into the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy catchment area.
The consultation starts on 2 October 2017 and the closing date is 19 November 2017.

To give your views on the proposals, please visit the council’s website at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/schooladmissions

A series of public meetings will also be held during the consultation. They offer residents a chance to find out more about the proposals and to discuss them with council representatives.

The following public meetings have been confirmed:

  • Tuesday 3 October Coombe Road 3-5pm
  • Wednesday 4 October Longhill 6-8pm
  • Thursday 5 October Hertford Infant 3.30pm-5pm
  • Wednesday 11 October West Hove Infant (School Road) 6-8pm
  • Thursday 12 October Benfield Primary 3.30pm-5pm
  • Tuesday 31 October Patcham High 6-8pm
  • Wednesday 1 November West Hove Infant (Connaught Road ) 3.30pm-5pm
  • Saturday 4 November Brighthelm Centre 9-11am
  • Monday 6 November Stanford Junior 1.30pm-3pm
  • Thursday 9 November Elm Grove Primary 6-8pm

Further dates will be posted online when they are confirmed.

The catchment area proposals have been put forward by Brighton & Hove City Council’s children, young people and skills committee, with input from a working party of local headteachers and school governors.

Committee chair Councillor Dan Chapman said: “We want to reduce pressure on school places in the city’s catchment areas, and offer families greater clarity about which secondary school their child may go to.

“Government guidelines say parents should be able to look at a set of arrangements and understand easily how places for a school will be allocated. The temporary light touch changes we are proposing would achieve this.

“The primary age proposals aim to ensure the future viability of all the city’s primary age schools. We are committed to ensuring that all schools remain open.”

The city’s two secondary faith schools, Cardinal Newman and King’s, have their own admissions arrangements and are not affected by the catchment area proposals.

Admissions arrangements have to be agreed 18 months in advance. So decisions about school admissions for September 2019 need to be made by early 2018.

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