Hundreds back petition to stop cuts at Brighton school

More than 800 people have backed a petition aimed at preventing a Brighton school from having to reduce its annual intake of pupils.

Parents started the petition, headed “Keep Carden Nursery & Primary School as a thriving two-form entry”, in support of the school in County Oak Avenue, yesterday (Thursday 11 November).

Within 24 hours there were 830 signatures from people who want the school to be allowed to take 60 reception-age children each year – or two “forms of entry”.

But Brighton and Hove City Council is consulting the public about proposals to reduce school admission numbers at seven primary schools from September 2023.

The proposals include a move to limit Carden Primary to one form of entry – or 30 children joining reception – each year in response to falling school rolls across the area.

The council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee agreed on Monday (8 November) to start the consultation from next Monday (15 November).

The committee was shown forecasts suggesting that parents will apply for just 1,930 primary and infant spaces in September 2025 – down 20 per cent from this year.

There are 2,820 reception year places at present and the council wants to reduce the number by 540, keeping some spare capacity to allow for choice and people moving to the area.

One of the parents who is behind the Carden Primary campaign, Laura Bissonet, a mother of two, said: “We are united as parents. It’s not something we are going to accept.

“My youngest daughter started five years ago. As parents, we have built a thriving and supportive community that got us all through lockdown and home learning.

“It’s a united lovely school, really diverse with people from all different backgrounds there and we all get on really well together. As a one-form entry school, it will lose the diversity.

“Despite the trend of falling numbers, the numbers at Carden have been consistent for a few years. My daughter’s year four is full.

“It is a transient school. People leave but they join too. Our numbers are buoyant.”

Parents are not keen to have one and a half forms of entry as offered to Bevendean Primary, Coldean Primary and two Woodingdean primary schools.

The petition on the council’s website said: “Situated in the border between Patcham and Hollingbury, Carden Nursery and Primary School has been a thriving community hub for the families of this area since 1948.

“Carden is a fantastic school on a trajectory of growth. It has agile leadership that has continued to improve the quality of its educational offer. This has happened regardless of the fluctuation of pupil numbers over the years.

“The most recent Ofsted inspection (Good, September 2021) described the school atmosphere as ‘buoyant’, the early years programme as ‘highly effective’ and recognised pupils’ wider development as a particular strength of the curriculum.”

The petition calls for a city-wide approach that does not disadvantage smaller schools like Carden.

It includes four key points opposing the reduction in the published admission number (PAN) from 60 to 30. They are

  • Reducing the intake in the school will mean significant budget cuts in an area rated in the 20 per cent most deprived in the country.
  • Reducing the published admission number (PAN) at Carden will directly result in more pupils needing to travel to other schools by car or having longer commutes on public transport.
  • Reducing the number of pupils will tear the social fabric of this truly diverse school.
  • Reducing Carden to single-form entry will create significant disparity in choice and outcome for children in Hollingbury and Patcham.

Alongside the petition, parents have set up the Keep Carden Thriving Facebook group and plan to hold a protest march from the school to Carden Park on the afternoon of Wednesday 24 November.

Patcham ward councillor and Carden Primary governor Alistair McNair said that he understood the council’s position but described the school as offering everything that the council claims to value.

Councillor Alistair McNair

Councillor McNair said: “It serves a very distinct community which will find it hard if Carden was reduced. The pupils would not be able to travel and lots of children would not have a space at Patcham Junior because it is oversubscribed. Patcham is lucky to have great schools.

“Hollingbury has many disadvantaged families and, suddenly, they would have to travel much further, which some would struggle to afford.”

He said that the council wanted to promote walking to school – something that most parents do at Carden.

Councillor McNair said that the school’s speech and language centre also did an excellent job supporting children who were struggling.

During its Ofsted inspection, a parents’ survey found a 99 per cent satisfaction rating.

Councillor McNair said that the school had in effect had a one-and-a-half form intake for years and numbers were not changing.

Yet it was not offered the option of a published admission number of 45 as had been proposed for other schools in the latest public consultation.

The consultation runs until Sunday 2 January. Public events in person and online are planned for all seven schools.

The proposals for the other six are

  • Bevendean Primary School to reduce from 60 to 45 pupils
  • Coldean Primary School to reduce from 60 to 45 pupils
  • Queen’s Park Primary School to reduce from 60 to 30 pupils
  • Rudyard Kipling Primary School to reduce from 60 to 45 pupils
  • Saltdean Primary School to reduce from 90 to 60 pupils
  • Woodingdean Primary School to reduce from 60 to 45 pupils

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