Admission cuts to Brighton and Hove City Council schools U-turn welcomed by campaigners, teachers and councilors
Activists fighting against proposed cuts to school admissions appear to be victorious after councilors prepared to scrap their plans.
Parents and supporters have opposed changes to reduce intake to the reception year at seven primary schools in Brighton.
There were concerns that the cuts would disproportionately affect disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs and disabilities.
The changes were due to be approved by members of Brighton and Hove City Council next week as officials try to manage a surplus of hundreds of free primary school places.
The council has proposed reducing admission to each school either by 30 children, what is called a form of entry, or by 15 pupils – or half a class. The changes would have taken effect in September next year.
Parents, teachers and counselors campaigned against the cuts, which would also affect individual school finances.
They put up petitions, which were signed by thousands of people, and lobbied councilors at meetings – as well as planning a weekend protest march.
The seven schools were: Bevendean Primary School, Carden Primary School, Coldean Primary School, Queen’s Park Primary School, Rudyard Kipling Primary School, Saltdean Primary School and Woodingdean Primary School.
Carden Primary School parent Abbey Kinslow last month led a delegation to the council, opposing a plan to cut school admissions in half – from 60 to 30 children.
She said: “We are delighted that the consultation has shown that now is not the right time to adjust the admission arrangements in the schools concerned.
“Now there will be more time to find a way forward that works for families in our city rather than disproportionately affecting disadvantaged students.”
Conservative councilor Alistair McNair, who represents the Patcham ward, supported the campaign and asked questions and voiced his concerns at council meetings.
Councilor McNair, who is also Governor of Carden, said: ‘This is a fantastic achievement for Carden Primary School – and in particular for the children, teachers, parents, Governors and community of Hollingbury and patcham. Parents, students and teachers led a phenomenal and sincere campaign that highlighted the strength of feeling of an entire community.
“With this result, Carden Primary remains a school capable of serving everyone in its community, which many children need and deserve the specialist support that only their local school could provide.
“It has been an absolute privilege to witness and be a small part of this outpouring of communal feelings and beliefs.”
Some of Carden’s parents were particularly concerned about the future of the school’s specialist speech therapy unit.
“The council finally listened”
Headteachers at Woodingdean Primary School and Rudyard Kipling Primary School, which is also in Woodingdean, were battling a drop in their intake from 60 to 45 pupils.
Parents, governors, and teachers at both schools were concerned about the prospect of coeducation if the schools potentially had a half-classroom.
Euan Hanington, at Rudyard Kipling, and Gemma Chumnansin, at Woodingdean, issued a joint statement saying: ‘Rudyard Kipling Primary and Nursery School and Woodingdean Primary School are delighted that we will continue to be dual entry schools in September 2023.
“We are delighted that Brighton and Hove City Council has seen the growth potential of our two schools as more and more families choose to move to the attractive Woodingdean area of Brighton and Hove.
“Having two excellent primary schools in Woodingdean, both dual entry, will continue to make Woodingdean an attractive area for families to relocate to.”
Conservative Councilor Dee Simson, who represents the borough of Woodingdean, joined parents at public consultation meetings last month to hear people’s concerns and understand why the council needed to reduce admissions.
She said: ‘The council’s proposal would have required many children to travel outside the village to access a school place – a journey which would require a minimum of two buses or create even more private car traffic.
“Woodingdean has become a popular area for families for many reasons: its rural setting, private accommodation at more reasonable prices – which we see a continuous increase with the demolition of one property to be replaced by three or even four new ones – and the number of social housing units that will always remain in communal ownership due to the nature of their non-traditional construction.
‘Woodingdean is an isolated part of town which should be allowed to continue to provide primary school places to all children in the village who need and want one.’
Leila Erin-Jenkins, parent at Bevendean Primary School, one of the main voices of the School Places campaign, was also relieved that the school appears to be staying as it is.
The school hosts the ‘Leap Pad’ for deaf and hard of hearing children in Brighton and Hove, supporting them in their access to mainstream education.
She said: “Everyone at the School Places campaign is delighted that the council has finally listened to us. We have worked so hard to present our case and prove that these proposals would be detrimental to our children and our city.
“I would like to thank the parents, children, staff and governors of the seven schools who supported our campaign to challenge these proposals.
“We hope that any future proposals will consider the impact on children in deprived areas and children with special educational needs and provide a much fairer solution.
“If they don’t we will be ready to campaign again and fight to stop them like we did this time.”
Labour’s spokeswoman on the Children, Young People and Skills Committee, Councilor Jackie O’Quinn, said she was relieved at the decision.
She said: “Having listened to parents in consultation meetings and visited several of the schools involved, it was clear that these were schools with strong roots in their local communities. view and welcome some of the city’s most disadvantaged children as well as SEND students and those from diverse backgrounds.
“I am delighted and relieved that this extra stress has been removed from these amazing schools. After all, we are still in a pandemic and schools have had and still have to deal with all that entails.”
The council held a public consultation for seven weeks from mid-November to the start of this month, holding 22 public meetings in person and online.
Over 450 people responded to the online consultation and 320 people attended virtual meetings while 268 showed up for in-person meetings.
Nearly 70% of those who responded to the consultation opposed plans to reduce admissions.
Different approach in the future
Green councilor Hannah Clare, who chairs the council’s children, young people and skills committee, said she had always said her decision was not made.
And, along with her fellow councilors on the committee, she said she was glad she was able to listen to parents’ concerns.
Councilor Clare said: “We know this will leave us with a number of vacancies. However, we hope to use the coming years to continue to engage with schools, particularly larger schools, who we believe can work with us to address the impact that a sharp drop in student numbers will have on our schools.
“This is particularly relevant for smaller schools which often serve more disadvantaged communities and given this we want to do all we can to keep schools open.
“While we are happy to have been able to take a look at each of the schools in turn this year and discuss the proposals with them, unfortunately the continued decline in pupil numbers over the next few years means that we will have to review how we approach this. in the future.
“Our frustration lies with the government’s ideological approach to planning school places, where the schools arbitrator then stepped in and ruled that the big schools in our city should not reduce their NAPs.
“In this year’s consultation, we followed the direction of the Schools Arbitrator with gritted teeth – and will consider a different approach in years to come.”
Last year, Brunswick Primary School, Goldstone Primary School, Stanford Infant School and Downs Infant School all successfully appealed against proposed cuts to their admissions from of September.
The Council’s forecast indicated that parents would demand only 1,930 childcare places in primary and nursery schools in September 2025, a drop of 20% compared to last September.
The council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall at 4pm on Monday 31 January. The meeting should be broadcast on the board’s website.
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