OPINION

Council’s schools plan will only speed up flight of families from Brighton

Posted On 15 Dec 2021 at 7:49 pm

The council’s schools policy is set to be thrown into the spotlight tomorrow (Thursday 16 December) when a series of petitions are due to presented.

Thousands of those involved with individual schools are opposing the council’s plans to reduce the number of “entry” places.

It is worth reflecting on the bigger picture – and the wider impact – of the council’s misguided plans.

Faced with families leaving Brighton and Hove at a record rate, the council is looking to reduce the number of primary school places that it offers to ensure that supply matches demand – and demand is falling by 4.75 per cent a year.

Spacewords Brighton

Bevendean Primary, Coldean Primary, Rudyard Kipling Primary and Woodingdean Primary have been earmarked for a reduction in their annual intake from 60 to 45 pupils.

Carden Primary, in Hollingbury, and Queen’s Park Primary would see a reduction from 60 to 30 pupils and Saltdean Primary from 90 to 60 pupils.

While this may mathematically do the trick for the council in reducing places to an acceptable level, this approach is poorly thought through, incorrectly targeted geographically and demographically and will be counterproductive to the health of the city in the long term.

It also goes against all environmental policies, given that children will be driven across the city to attend non-local schools.

Flight of families

Following many years of council policies encouraging students to live in the city, including decisions to grant planning permission to split family homes into flats or shared houses – known as HMOs – the chickens have come home to roost.

With each family home that is lost, another family departs and there is less demand for school places.

The obsession with students has cost parts of the inner city dearly and this has been reflected in the citywide statistics.

The areas that have retained the bulk of their family homes and families have tended to be those located in the outer suburban parts of the city, such as Hollingbury, Patcham and Woodingdean.

It is here that there remains a strong demand for school places at the local schools. Each of these schools are well managed financially – another argument for keeping these schools as they are.

It therefore makes no sense that the council should target these areas for the reduction in school places that the city needs.

It is also a counterproductive policy in the long term and will almost certainly cause another wave of family departures from the city.

As parents at the affected schools have said, if these changes go ahead, many children will have to travel to other areas of the city to go to school in future.

Those who do gain a local place may well have to join mixed age group classes in some instances, which is not ideal for parents, teachers or children.

All of this will provide another push factor for families in the area who may well decide that Brighton and Hove is just not the place for them to raise a family. All because this is based on inaccurate data on where families are moving to.

Citywide impact

For many years the council’s policies have prioritised the needs of students, not families. Students of course do not pay council tax and so with every family that leaves, the city’s tax base is shrinking, placing an ever-increasing burden on those who remain.

The lack of attention to many areas, including family-size housing, the state of the city, anti-social behaviour and Brighton and Hove’s continually rising council tax bills all contribute to driving young families away.

Brighton and Hove is meant to be a city for all but the council’s policies do not reflect that – or the needs of families.

Cities thrive with a diverse economic base – and families are a key part of that. There needs to be a change of emphasis if Brighton and Hove is going to have a secure future.

Areas like Patcham and Hollingbury, Bevendean and Woodingdean must be protected as places in the city where families can live and children can go to their local school.

The council’s current schools policy is counterproductive, undermines this aim and needs to be rethought and revised.

Councillor Anne Meadows is a Conservative on Brighton and Hove City Council. She represents Patcham ward and is a member of the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee.

  1. Jonathan Simons Reply

    Tories were part of the cross-party agreement to launch this consultation so pretty odd to read this kind of opportunism. Maybe lobby your own government to fix the broken school funding system and stop cutting so much money from schools?

  2. Gareth Hall Reply

    Young families can’t afford to live in Brighton snd hove their wages don’t cover the cost of their rent let alone anything else this is as a result of Tory austerity nothing to do with council policy

  3. Some Guy Reply

    I’d love to hear Anne’s thoughts on which inner city schools could do with cutting, and could sustain the total reduction needed without closing.
    The tangent about students – a completely irrelevant one given the matter at hand – seeks to put blame at the door of young people and not the landlords who exploit them. Maddening, given her committee position. If she wants to see more family-sized housing hitting the market, perhaps she could encourage the council to ban property rentals? I guarantee the owners will sell up fast under those circumstances.

  4. Julie Jones Reply

    I’m afraid many families no longer want to live in the City. High property prices in a town centre where junkies are everywhere and stopping you every few minutes asking you for money. The town centre has also become crime-ridden and areas that were once clean and safe and are rapidly becoming no go areas. Areas like Queens Park used to be safe and now they have needle warning signs in the playground. The council policies are all about encouraging junkies into the town centre and not caring about the kind of environment kids grow up in. I was shocked when I heard an expensive building next door to the pavilion (a tourist attraction many other cities would love to have and protect) is now about to be converted by the council to house junkies. Not elderly poor people that would like to be in the town centre. Not sold to pay for 5x the amount of purpose-built accommodation elsewhere but stuck in the Old Steine. People with kids don’t want to live in areas like this when you just don’t see it in other areas.

  5. Nicola Reply

    I agree that families don’t want to live long term in the city centre but the point that has been missed by other comments here is that the schools under threat of cuts are in the suburbs. These areas are where families move to! They are also where there aren’t great clusters of schools to choose from. If places are cut at Carden which is so isolated it’s almost on the South Downs, parents’ nearest school would be a 3 mile round trip away. That’s 6 miles a day walking to and from school. How is it acceptable to limit places where they are needed and where the school has huge playing fields and buildings to accommodate many children? This proposal directly impacts those families who are already more disadvantaged and is the opposite of any ‘levelling up’ agenda.

  6. Teresa Lipson Reply

    Part of the disappearance of families is Brexit. Another Tory policy. Such hypocrisy shown by the writer of this article. The so called B and H independent is turning into a version of the Argus

    • Nathan Adler Reply

      You understand this is an ‘opinion’ piece? There are other ‘opinion’ pieces from individuals and councilors with other party alliances. I read them all because I don’t agree with many but it’s interesting to hear the other side of the argument – it never hurts to listen.

  7. Concerned gull Reply

    Way too much blaming the Tories here. The problems in Brighton today are not a direct result of Brexit or austerity or some Christmas party the Tories had last year. If you think the result of strikes, homelessness, crime, etc. in Brighton are the result of Tory policy then you must do your research. This policy, whether it was cross-party agreed or not, will have a negative impact on families. Too many here have socialist blinkers on that they can’t get past the problems that are right in front of them.

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