Parents at a Portslade school threatened with closure have accused Labour of breaking a pledge to keep schools open.
Brighton and Hove City Council last month announced plans to close two primary schools, including St Peter’s Community School in Portslade, next summer.
During heated meetings at the school and online this week, parents asked Labour councillors Jacob Taylor and Lucy Helliwell why they were breaking the party’s election pledge.
They pointed to the local party’s manifesto from May’s elections, which includes the pledge “Keep Schools Open”, which says: “We will look at changing catchment areas to protect schools facing closure, particularly in outlying areas” and that Labour would use “what money is available” to keep schools open.
It also says: “A Labour council will look to increase the city’s provision for pre-school children and seek to maintain council-run nurseries wherever possible.”
But the closure of St Peter’s will also mean the closure of its popular nursery, which charges £30 a day, far less than private nurseries.
Parents also questioned the council’s previous assertion that there are enough spaces at nearby schools to take St Peter’s pupils in September for all but children going into year 2 and year 6.
One mother of a reception pupil, Emily Brewer, said she had rung the nearest five schools, and there were only eight places currently free for the 16 children in the year.
Miss Brewer, who also has a child registered to start at the nursery in February, told Brighton and Hove News: “Cllr Jacob Taylor didn’t have anything to say for himself when I challenged him on breaking the pledges.
“The timing of this announcement has been terrible. They did it at a time when people are looking for school places for September 2025. This feels intentional to put people off from applying to this wonderful community school.
“It’s going to have a huge impact on families. I have no idea where my daughters are going to go.
“Some families may have to travel across the city, or might have to send children to different schools – how are they going to live, to work?”
Another, Kirsty Moore, said: “They are breaking promises, they are not keeping to their word.
“They haven’t done proper research before announcing this bombshell and the impact it will have/already had on our school.”
Councillor Jacob Taylor said: “Since we took office in May we’ve met individually with headteachers across the city to understand the needs of our family of schools.
“We have been clear at committee and in public statements that no final decision will be made until the consultation process has concluded.
“By taking these decisions now, we will create a system where schools are fuller, get better government funding, and are able to offer a broad and properly resourced education to all pupils, but particularly those with SEND and from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“In our manifesto we said that ‘a Labour council will use what money is available to keep schools open’. That is exactly what we are doing – more than half our schools are in deficit, and in the next financial year it looks likely that the council will have to use its general fund to support schools.
“We are pursuing PAN reductions at a further nine schools to try and minimise the need for any further school closures.
“The fact that there are falling pupil numbers in schools is not new. The Greens were aware of this but they were incapable of making decisions and did nothing to address this.
“The Tory Government’s funding formula means schools receive funding on a per pupil basis.
“This means sparse classrooms and school budget deficits will only diminish the quality of schools. 54% of schools are now in budget deficits and pupil numbers are reducing and forecast to fall further.”
A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said there are enough places within two miles of St Peter’s for everyone currently on the school roll and for the reception year, there are enough places within 1.5 miles.
He added: “We will strive to meet parental preferences wherever we can.”