PARENTS fear new secondary school catchment areas could either force children to travel large distances or exclude them from the more popular ones.

Brighton and Hove City Council is proposing to make the changes with the first option creating one catchment area per school and the other two options dividing the most subscribed schools in larger zones.

Parents criticised the vast differences between the benchmark GCSE pass rates at certain schools, which as a result means some are oversubscribed while others are undersubscribed, and said the council should do more to improve the ones which are underperforming rather than use catchment areas as a 'smokescreen' to resolve the problem.

More than 100 parents have signed a petition and took part in a march against the changes yesterday afternoon.

Parent Naomi Reilly, who organised the petition and rally, lives within walking distance to both oversubscribed Dorothy Stringer and Varndean - yet under two of the three options, it is possible that only one of those would be in her catchment.

She said: "I think the problem is that two out of three options propose really large catchment areas.

"There are two schools on our doorstep which are only five minutes away but under these wider catchment areas, if my children didn't get one of those, they could have to travel halfway across the city because the other would be out of the catchment.

"The real issue is the need to improve schools across the city. This system pits parents against each other.

"We feel we are being made part of a social experiment."

She added: "We are being used as Guinnea pigs. But this is our children's education and future."

Chris Arulanandan, of Havelock Road, said the proposals seemed to be shifting people around rather than improving some of the schools on offer.

He said: "The issue is not the catchment areas themselves but the fact that the council are just shifting the problem.

"What they are failing to do is improve or enhance the failing schools."

Parents also say the other option of proposing a single catchment area per school is flawed as it would force children in some parts of the city to attend unpopular and underperforming schools.

Chairman of the council’s cross party school organisation working group Councillor Daniel Chapman said the three options are not a "street-by-street guide" but are meant to get people thinking about what sort of catchment area system they would prefer.

He said the council also want to see whether it can make more schools more accessible to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Coun Chapman added: “No admissions system will please all parents, but our aim above all is to arrive at a new system that is as fair as possible to as many parents and children on a city-wide basis."

A council spokesman said they are holding preliminary discussions to give parents the chance to air their views prior to launching a formal consultation and insisted all the possibilities were still on the table.

They added the catchment area boundaries on the proposed plans were not set in stone and parents would still be consulted on whether to continue the lottery system of allocating places when schools are oversubscribed.

The council also say new catchment areas are needed to make allowances for the city's new University of Brighton free school the location of which has not been officially announced.

A public meeting to discuss the issues will be held at Blatchington Mill School from 7 to 9pm.

Residents have until Sunday (May 1) to give their views at


MORE than 100 parents and children turned up at a rally to voice their concerns over unpopular new school catchment proposals.

Chanting the pressure group’s slogan "Kids Not Commuters" at Blakers Park in Brighton, those present were united in urging Brighton and Hove City Council to rethink its plans.

The city’s admissions crisis is well documented, with some oversubscribed schools such as Dorothy Stringer bursting at the seams while others such as Brighton Aldridge Community Academy are undersubscribed.

Addressing the crowd with a megaphone was 43-year-old Chris Arulanandam, who said: “Undersubscribed and unpopular schools will continue to be unpopular and undersubscribed.

“They need to address it so people in the city have a genuine choice of quality schools.”

This was the message coming back from the parents, and all those concerned were as in sync as a Welsh male voice choir.

To them, the fact their children might spend two hours a day on a bus to and from school is a side issue. 

It’s the inequality of the standard of education across the city which is driving the campaign, highlighted by 29 per cent of BACA’s students hitting the benchmark GCSE figures last year compared with 73 per cent of Dorothy Stringer’s.

Molly Talbot, of Havelock Road, could see her daughter Rosa, seven, sent five miles across the city to Longhill under the new catchment proposals despite Dorothy Stringer and Varndean being less than a mile away.

With the school day starting at 8.15am, Her children would have to be awake by 6am to get ready and have breakfast before a bus journey of more than an hour.

She said: “The council is just side-stepping the underlying issue. What this consultation has done is it’s taken away from focusing on the city’s failing schools. It should be helping them improve and just sending more children to those schools is not going to improve them.”

As the group walked to the Fiveways junction with their banners, many motorists honked in support, and for some parents the protest was as simple as wanting their children to be able to travel to school on foot.


THE proposed changes to secondary school admissions in Brighton and Hove could mean vast swathes of the city grouped into single catchment areas. 

The new divisions are set to be highly contentious as a huge divide has been revealed between the most popular and unpopular schools. 

Under each of the proposals Dorothy Stringer will be divided into a different catchment area from Varndean. 

Admissions figures released last month showed Dorothy Stringer was the most oversubscribed school in the city with 1,023 applications compared with 138 for Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) and 182 for Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA). 

Varndean received 957 applications for 270 places. 

From September 2018, the projected rise in the number of secondary age pupils means that in some catchment areas there will be too many pupils for the places available. 

The University of Brighton free school will create some extra places and will need a catchment area – but with its exact location still to be confirmed the proposals are uncertain and boundaries unclear. 

If Government plans to convert all schools to academies goes ahead, which would mean all schools run by a single multi academy trust, it would be unlikely to make a difference to the catchment area changes due for 2018.

The Argus: Option C - Download the option c map full.pdf

Option C would divide the entire city into just three areas. The northern area would include Patcham, Varndean and BACA. 

In the west of the city PACA, Hove Park and Blatchington Mill would fall into a second catchment area. Dorothy Stringer, Longhill and the new University of Brighton free school would form the third catchment area. 

The Argus: Option B - Download the option b - map full.pdf

Option B divides the city into four areas. Dorothy Stringer will fall into the same area as Blatchington Mill, Patcham, BACA and Varndean would be grouped together in a second area.

PACA and Hove Park would form a third area and the new school and Longhill form the fourth.

The Argus: Option A - Download the option a - map full.pdf

Option A would create nine catchment areas, one for each school. Cardinal Newman and Kings School have extra admissions criteria on religious grounds because they are faith schools.