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Opposition councillors warn Brighton and Hove heading for schools crisis
Brighton and Hove is on the brink of a major school places crisis.
That is the stark warning from councillors after a report suggested the city’s schools could run out of places in the next three years.
A new council report states the city has enough secondary school places to meet demand until 2017 but then they will be full or almost full.
By the end of the decade the council will be expected to supply 1,500 places for 11 to 16 year old pupils in total – the equivalent of another large secondary school.
Opposition councillors said the current Green majority had no idea how to tackle the imminent crisis after the report highlighted there was “no obvious site” for a new secondary school in the city.
At a full council meeting Labour’s Anne Pissaridou said: “What this document reveals is we’re on the brink of a major crisis in secondary places.”
After the meeting, she said: “It is simply unacceptable that the Green administration has allowed a situation to develop whereby the city will run completely out of secondary school places by 2017, meaning parents’ preferences will be restricted.
“The additional numbers of pupils expected in secondary schools has been known for some time, so why didn’t they take action sooner?
Also speaking after the meeting, Andrew Wealls, Conservative spokesman for children and young people, said: “I’m frustrated we’re in this position.
“There’s a danger this will be solved in a less than optimal outcome.”
But Green councillor Sue Shanks denied the council was facing a crisis and warned councillors about making the problem into a political issue.
She said: “I don’t think there’s a crisis in our schools. Everybody can’t go to schools like Dorothy Stringer but we’ve got places in our schools.”
Council leader Jason Kitcat said the council was working to provide places and indicated Toads Hole Valley as a place that could accommodate a school.
He added that the council was also working with existing schools and academies to address the issue.
He said government policy, which means any new build has to be an academy or free school, meant the council was tasked with meeting demand but could no longer supply it on its own.
He added: “We either need to expand all the current schools or create another one and there have been significant discussions to do that."
In December last year Michael Gove, the secretary of State for Education, announced that Brighton and Hove will receive £3.9 million for 2014/15, £12 million for 2015/16 and £12.6 million for 2016/17 for capital projects.
Speaking to The Argus, Pinaki Ghoshal, the council’s executive director of children’s services, said the city would not run out of school places by 2017. He said: “By 2019 that’s when things get more complicated.
"The fact we’re going to need additional secondary school places has not been a surprise.
"We’ve known for a few years we need additional secondary places but the bulge of children are still in primary school. In secondary places we haven’t seen a significant increase.”
He added that the council had only just confirmed it would be getting £24 million from the Government for investment in extra places.
Mr Ghoshal said many schools were already oper- ating above the capacity they were originally designed for.
But in a message to reassure parents, he said: “All children will get a school place in the city of Brighton and Hove. There’s no crisis in 2017.”
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