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Primary places shortfall warning in Sussex
Councils continue to face a “real challenge” meeting the growing demand for primary school places.
A Government report highlighted the issue, with some areas looking at a places shortfall of up to 7% by 2015 if action is not taken immediately.
The National Audit Office (NAO) figures make grim, if not surprising, reading as the intense pressure on school places was illustrated.
Eastbourne was exposed as the most at risk in Sussex, with a potential shortfall of school places of 7% by 2014/15 if nothing is done.
It was one of more than 30 areas nationwide classed as under “severe” pressure by the NAO.
Just one area in the county, Chichester, was outside “moderate” risk – having a projected surplus of less than 5% – or worse.
In Brighton and Hove there is a projected 3.8% surplus of places.
The figure may sound surprising given the issues many have faced in the city but across the local authority as a whole the problem is not as dire as other areas.
Instead, the problem for Brighton and Hove is where the shortages are – areas such as Portslade – and the lack of sites to expand schools in those areas.
The council has already begun to take steps to try to tackle the issue, with Aldrington Primary School set to be expanded.
In West Sussex the Mid Sussex area was at the most risk with a projected shortfall of 3.1%.
Others in the “high” risk category were Arun (2.3% shortage), Worthing (2% shortage) and Horsham (0.7% shortage).
Peter Griffiths, West Sussex’s cabinet member for education and schools, said: “Local places at local schools is a particularly important issue for parents and last September we completed 26 projects on schedule, providing 597 places, and we have been consulting on other expansion plans.
“Over 1,500 additional places will be added at 27 primary schools across the county for September 2013.”
In East Sussex Eastbourne was the most at risk with Lewes also predicted to have a shortfall of 0.8%.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said it was tackling the issue.
He said: “The issue with primary school places in Eastbourne is caused by the fact the town has seen a significant rise in birth rates in the past few years, leading to a shortfall in the number of reception class places available in parts of the town.”
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