Council plans to overhaul the way thousands of children in Brighton and Hove pick their school were approved tonight after a second knife-edge vote.

The city council's children, families and schools committee held a special meeting at Brighton Town Hall to reconsider its decision on February 2 to go ahead with a radical overhaul of the way pupils are admitted to the city's eight state secondary schools.

The ten committee members voted whether to stand by their decision to introduce catchment areas and a lottery system as deciding factors for which children get places at the most popular schools.

But after the members were split down the middle over the proposals, Labour councillor Pat Hawkes - the chairwoman of the committee - used her casting vote to back the scheme. Tory councillor Vanessa Brown had tabled an amendment to the plans suggesting a modified version of the current school selection scheme should be brought in but her plan was rejected. The four Tory and one Independent on the committee then voted against the Labour administration's proposed selection system with four Labour and one Green voting for it - leaving Coun Hawkes to push the plan through.

The admissions system which has been used for the past few years allows parents to specify their first three choices of schools and, at oversubscribed schools, gives priority to families the shortest walking distance away.

But because of the geography of the city children in several areas, including East Brighton, the seafront and central Hove, live so far from their nearest schools they have no chance of being given priority at any of them.

This means many youngsters have to travel across the city to attend schools miles from their homes.

The council said it devised the new catchment areas to ensure every child would be able to get into one of its nearest schools.

More than 100 parents and children holding banners braved a downpour to put their point of view across outside the meeting.

The committee's first vote was dogged with controversy after the Labour group sacked rebel councillor Juliet McCaffery at the eleventh hour to ensure the plans were given the go ahead.

Before tonight's meeting parents spoke of their anger that the Green party had carried out a similar action. Preston Park councillor Richard Mallender, who had come under considerable pressure from his constituents to vote against the scheme, was replaced on the committee by councillor Sue Paskins.

For a full report of the meeting including pictures read The Argus tomorrow. To see a map of the new catchment areas, click here.

Find out how the new school admissions system would work, click here

To see our video report, click here.

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