Four Brighton and Hove schools to cut places as birth rates fall

Four schools face cutting the number of places and classes that they offer as a result of falling birth rates.

Brighton and Hove City Council expects parents and carers to apply for 2,518 places for children starting at infant and primary schools in September 2021, down from 2,588 next September.

As a result, 392 school places would be unfilled, up from 322 next September and putting some schools’ finances at risk if capacity remains unchanged.

The council wants three infant and primary schools to drop a reception class of 30 pupils each, reducing the number of unfilled places to 302.

They are Hangleton Primary School, Mile Oak Primary School and West Hove Infant School at its Connaught Road site.

All would have two reception classes each instead of three and take 60 children in reception instead of 90.

Hove Junior School would drop its “published admission number” (PAN) by 38 children – from 128 to 90.

This year just 54 pupils were allocated to Hangleton initially while 57 were allocated to Mile Oak and 56 to West Hove’s Connaught Road site. Hove Junior had an allocation of 65 pupils.

The proposed reductions are to be the subject of a consultation, starting on Friday (15 November) and ending on Monday 6 January.

The consultation details were approved by the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee this afternoon (Monday 11 November).

The council’s head of school organisation Richard Barker said that the reduced intakes would affect schools with at least three “forms of entry”, protecting smaller schools.

And, he said, the proposals reflected the fact that the most surplus places were in Portslade and West Hove.

As population patterns changed, he added, extra school spaces may be needed in the future.

Green councillor Hannah Clare agreed that the reductions were needed and that capacity could be increased again.

She said: “My concern is if we don’t take action, we will have a huge problem in the city. This change is not going to be enough as we will still have surplus places.”

Fellow Green councillor Sarah Nield said that Westdene’s head teacher was happy that the school had dropped from having two reception classes to one.

Labour councillor Les Hamilton, a retired teacher and former chair of the Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said that Portslade’s schools had 11 reception classes with 330 places but just 246 children.

He said that in a few years this could drop to fewer than 100 and that classes of 18 were not viable.

Councillor Hamilton said: “If we are going to make schools viable, we need to do something about it.

“It’s got to be the bigger schools. We don’t want to close schools and there are not a lot of two and three-form entry schools in Portslade.”

Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown agreed, saying: “The pressure is tremendous for reductions.”

Labour councillor John Allcock, who chairs the committee, said that it was a big challenge, adding: “This committee needs to be looking at more of this moving forward.

“It is important we get this right and the changes right because we know it will be a challenge for people.”

To respond to the consultation, click here.

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