Proposals to reduce the number of classes at some of Brighton and Hove’s biggest primary schools have prompted parents to take action.
At Downs Infant School, in Ditchling Road, parents and governors have started the Protect Downs Infants website to encourage people to take part in a public consultation by Brighton and Hove City Council.
Downs is one of nine state schools in the consultation as the council said that it needed to reduce the number of school places by 360 for the 2022-23 school year.
By then, an estimated 2,191 children are forecast to start in reception classes, with 629 empty places if no changes are made.
At the moment Downs Infant School has four reception classes, with 120 youngsters starting each September.
Proposals in the consultation would see this number reduced to three classes – or 90 pupils.
Parents are concerned about the risk of losing places as the school has been oversubscribed for the past three years.
They also fear that reducing the published admission number (PAN) will have a knock-on effect on Downs Junior School.
Mother-of-two Rebecca Elton said that the consultation was the “wrong decision for schooling, children and families in this area”.
She said: “Acting now to reduce intake in advance of seeing the admissions numbers rests on some pretty shaky projections and assumptions about families moving into and out of the area and assumes a substantial decline.
“These projections, particularly with covid changing demographic trends, are likely to be wrong.”
She said that it would have a far-reaching impact for a number of years, affecting Downs Infant School, and having a comparable impact on Downs Junior School three years later.
She added: “Having been to the online council consultations and heard quite a few views, I’ve become convinced that the proposals (concerning reducing Downs Infant’s intake particularly) are a wrong decision for schooling, children and families in this area.”
Another mother of two, Kate Crawford, is concerned about the effect on the schools budget of reducing numbers.
She said: “It is an outstanding school with an enormous sense of community and has been consistently oversubscribed for a long time.
“Reducing the school intake by 25 per cent will have a substantial impact on the school budget and will affect the school’s ability to continue with the incredibly high standard of teaching and pastoral care currently on offer.
“The choice of schools in the local area will also be reduced, disrupting the strong sense of community that exists around here.
“It will ultimately mean that some young children will no longer be part of the local community and will have to travel further to school putting additional pressure on parents as well as increasing the amount of traffic on the roads and the number of people using public transport.”
Emilia Simpson, who has a daughter in reception at the school and a two-year-old son, thinks the method used to decide which schools are targeted is “unethical”.
She said: “As a mother of a two-year-old boy with special needs I am seriously worried that if the PAN reduction does happen, it will be a step too far on the school budget and will affect the excellent care that Downs Infant School has delivered over the years for children coming from across the city.
“Deciding which school should take the toll of the decrease in birth rate just by looking at the data from GP surgeries omits this point and is completely unethical.”
The consultation includes two other schools with four “forms of entry” – Balfour Primary School, in Balfour Road, Brighton, and Brunswick Primary School, in Somerhill Road, Hove. At both, the council also proposes cutting annual admission numbers from 120 to 90.
Under the proposals, Goldstone Primary School and Stanford Infant School would cut their intake from 90 pupils to 60.
Benfield, Moulsecoomb and West Blatchington primary schools would have one-form intakes.
Parents of children at Benfield Primary School, in Old Shoreham Road, Portslade, have set up a petition in protest at the proposal.
The petition on Brighton and Hove City Council’s website had more than 600 signatures at the start of the week and said that parents fought off a previous attempt to reduce numbers in 2017.
Started by Harriet Keilthy, it said: “We strongly object to the proposal, we have already petitioned (successfully) against this in 2017.
“We want to reiterate as before, that Benfield Primary, which is stronger now than ever, is a child-centric, well-run, successful school that provides the diversity and choice that we need in this area.”
The consultation also proposes a cut in numbers at Hove Park School and Sixth Form. A similar consultation to reduce the admission numbers at the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) has just ended.
The consultation is open on the council website until Friday (27 November). Parents of children aged two to 18 are encouraged to respond by the deadline.
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