Parents fighting the proposed closure of two schools have gathered enough support for a pair of petitions to trigger a debate at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council this week.
The council is holding a public consultation after announcing the proposed closure of St Peter’s Community School, in Portslade, and St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School, in Brighton.
Both schools’ petitions on the Change.org website have passed the threshold of 1,250 signatures to trigger a debate at a meeting of the full council next Thursday (14 December).
A week before the meeting, Reija Such’s petition to save St Bartholomew’s from closing had 1,887 signatures and Kirsty Moore’s petition to save St Peter’s had 1,676 signatures.
Ms Such’s petition said: “It (St Bartholomew’s) is a school who are committed to supporting pupils and families with additional needs.
“Closing it would deprive many of these children’s opportunities and it would have a detrimental impact for many of our families who rely on the support from the school.
“Children have had their education and their lives disrupted enough due to the pandemic. We do not need to add even more unnecessary and cruel uncertainty.”
Ms Moore’s petition said: “St Peter’s is not just a school, it’s an amazing community where teachers are kind, compassionate and understanding.
“The focus here is always on the families and children – an ethos that fosters well-mannered students who feel valued and supported.”
She said that small community schools like St Peter’s supported children with special educational needs but who did not have an education, health and care plan (EHCP).
As potential reception class pupil numbers plummet across Brighton and Hove, nine primary and infant schools are also facing a reduction in their published admission numbers (PAN) from 2025.
Consultations are under way for reduced intakes at Brunswick, Goldstone, Queen’s Park, Rudyard Kipling, St Luke’s, Stanford and Woodingdean primary schools and Patcham and Stanford infant schools from September 2025.
If all the proposals go ahead, this would be a reduction of 300 reception places – about two thirds of the 450 places that the council estimates need to go by 2026.
There are currently 2,610 primary school places in reception each year but the council forecasts that there may only be 1,959 children requiring a school place in 2025 and 1,948 in 2026.
Schools receive a set block of funding from the government through the “dedicated schools grant”, with the rest of its income based on the number of pupils.
If a school takes 34 pupils, it must employ two teachers and run two classrooms for them but with funding for only 17 pupils a class.
The trend of falling reception class numbers has led Brighton and Hove City Council to try to reduce intakes since 2019.
An early warning was given to councillors in September 2017 when schools were dealing with a much larger number of pupils but “bulge” year groups were moving on to secondary schools.
The 2021 census recorded 22 per cent fewer children under four in Brighton and Hove compared with the 2011 census – and the effect of this is already being felt in some schools.
In November 2019, councillors were asked to consult the community on reducing intakes by one class at Mile Oak and Hangleton primary schools, West Hove Infant School’s Connaught Road site and Hove Junior School, in Holland Road, from September 2021.
In September 2020, Balfour, Benfield, Brunswick, Goldstone, Moulsecoomb and West Blatchington primary schools and Downs and Stanford infant schools were all the subject of consultations on proposals to cut a class from September 2022.
Brunswick, Goldstone, Downs and Stanford successfully appealed to the school’s adjudicator, staving off the threat to the number of children who could be offered a place.
In November 2021, consultations were carried out on reducing the intake at Bevendean, Carden, Coldean, Queen’s Park, Rudyard Kipling, Saltdean and Woodingdean primary schools starting in September 2023.
Parents campaigned against the prospect of reductions and, in January last year, the council dropped the proposals.
The meeting of the full council is due to start at 4.30pm next Thursday (14 December) at Hove Town Hall. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.