Parents petition council to stop closing schools on polling day

A petition has been handed in to try to prevent schools from having to close when elections take place.

The petition was started by Downs Infant School parent Faye Brockwell and presented to councillors by Arthur Gallagher, the vice chair of governors at Cottesmore St Mary Primary.

Thousands of children missed school as a result of election day closing – yet, Mr Gallagher said, parents keeping a child off school faced being fined.

Mr Gallagher also told members of Brighton and Hove City Council at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 11 July) that more than 350 people had signed the petition.

He told the council’s Policy, Resources and Growth Committee: “When schools are used as polling stations, the majority have to be shut to ensure the safeguarding of pupils.

“This puts additional pressure on working parents, who struggle to cover the number of school holidays as it is.

“Parents should not have to pay for childcare or use up annual leave to cover the council using their child’s school as a polling station.

“Using schools as polling stations also impacts our children’s education.”

Two elections have already taken place this year – the council elections and the European Parliament elections – with, Mr Gallagher said, the possibility of a general election.

He added: “If parents take their children out of school, they are charged £60 per parent.

“Yet parents receive no additional help to cover childcare costs when the school is closed for elections.

“Why is it one rule for the council and another for hard-working parents?”

Council leader Nancy Platts said: “A full review of polling stations will take place before January.

“Decisions to close a school are made by the head teacher – not the council or the returning officer.

“It would be unwise to completely rule out using schools as polling places (but) we will always look to find an alternative site where possible.”

She said that council staff had worked with schools that doubled up as polling stations so that they could stay fully or predominantly open.

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