COUNCILLORS are being asked to cut a class from eight Brighton and Hove primary schools and almost halve the intake at a secondary school despite opposition from parents.

But the alternative – keeping the same number of classes – could leave the schools in financial trouble, according to an official report.

The proposals are due to go before a virtual Brighton and Hove City Council meeting next week along with results from consultations carried out during the autumn term.

They reflect the falling number of children due to start school in September next year.

The Argus: Benfield Primary SchoolBenfield Primary School

If the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee backs the proposals, there will be 240 fewer primary school places and 120 secondary school places.

A report to councillors said that 802 people responded to consultations in October and November, with 416 coming from parents or carers of children directly affected by the proposed changes.

More than half – 488 people – disagreed with the proposal to reduce the published admission numbers (PAN), compared with 231 or 29 per cent who backed the cuts.

But even more opposed the prospect of closing an entire school, with 78 per cent wanting to avoid any closures while 13 per cent in favour.

If the proposals are approved, Downs Infant School and Balfour and Brunswick primary schools will take 90 pupils from September next year instead of 120.

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Stanford Infant School and Goldstone Primary School would admit 60 children instead of 90.

And Benfield, Moulsecoomb and West Blatchington primary schools would have one form of entry – or 30 pupils – rather than two forms, or 60 children.

Four of the schools – Brunswick, Downs Infant, Goldstone and Stanford Infant – have all often been oversubscribed.

The cut is much bigger at Hove Park School, with the secondary expected to reduce its published admission number from 300 to 180.

A Benfield parent, Harriet Keilthy, is presenting a petition signed by 837 people opposing the proposal to cut the school’s intake to a single class per year.

The petition said: “We strongly object to the proposal. We have already petitioned (successfully) against this in 2017 and we want to reiterate, as before, that Benfield Primary, which is stronger now than ever, is a child-centric, well-run, successful school that provides the diversity and choice that we need in this area.”

Mrs Keilthy questioned the forecasting model in her response to the consultation, saying that the council’s data excluded pupils living in Hove, to the east of the school.

She said: “When asked if the forecast in previous years had been retrospectively ratified with the actual data to see how accurate the model was, the silence indicated that it had not.

“When asked what criteria/algorithm was run that specifically called Benfield out as a school that has met that criteria against other schools in Brighton and Hove, there was no response.

“The current unprecedented covid situation will have a catastrophic impact on our economy. It is impossible to predict how the current situation will affect people that live in the local vicinity, those that will move because of a change in circumstance good or bad. It is illogical to base a future decision on such an uncertain future.”

The report going before the committee said that people responding to the consultation questioned the accuracy of the forecast fall in numbers because covid-19 restrictions and changing work patterns meant that more people were moving to Brighton and Hove from London.

The report said: “The impact on parental preference, potential staff redundancies and the feeling that popular successful schools being proposed to protect less popular schools were regular themes.

“Many respondents supported the council’s approach that larger schools should be reduced rather than smaller schools as the impact would be more manageable for larger schools.

“Many responses from parents at all schools praised the education provision, staff dedication and particularly the work of head teachers and questioned why the high quality of education was not taken into account at the schools proposed for a reduced PAN.

“On many occasions, the council has made it clear that these proposals are in no way a reflection of the quality of education or leadership at the schools recommended to have their PAN reduced.”

The council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee is due to meet at 4pm next Monday (11 January). The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council website.