COUNCILLORS called for all schools to work together to solve the problems of surplus places in Brighton and Hove as they voted to keep pupil numbers unchanged for next year’s reception intake.

Members of Brighton and Hove City Council shared their concerns about spare places in the area’s primary schools.

But the council’s children, young people and skills committee agreed that any further changes should be set in train next year rather than now.

The committee voted unanimously to keep seven schools with the same published admission number (PAN) for 2023 at a town hall meeting on Monday.

The seven schools are:

Bevendean Primary School

Carden Primary School

Coldean Primary School

Queen’s Park Primary School

Rudyard Kipling Primary School

Saltdean Primary School

Woodingdean Primary School

Green councillor Zoe John said that there would difficult decisions ahead, adding: “We have a falling number of children in our schools and a growing number of empty places and limited options as to what we do about it.

“We can’t control the admissions numbers to our church schools or our academies and the schools adjudicator has ruled against us when we’ve tried to cut the PANs of our bigger schools.

“We don’t want to make decisions which disproportionately affect our disadvantaged students. It’s very important that we try to protect children with special educational needs.

“We are very aware that schools serve and are central to their communities and we are committed to keeping all our schools open if we possibly can.”

Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown said that it was the right decision to protect the seven schools that served distinct communities, with many youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds, while managing their budgets.

She said: “Unfortunately, this still leaves us with the original problem of falling rolls and empty spaces in our schools.

“What we need are proper long-term solutions, not this piecemeal cutting back of numbers each year which causes so much turmoil and is so unsettling for these schools.

“We need to work with all the schools in an open and transparent way, including working more closely with the faith schools and our academies and free schools.”

Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said that the public consultation process was “quite a journey”.

She took part in most of the 22 public meetings to hear the views of parents, teachers and governors about the original proposals to cut the intake at the seven schools.

Cllr O’Quinn said: “What I realised over the period of time is how passionate parents were about their schools and how involved the governors were.

“These schools are thriving community schools. They don’t have financial problems. They are managing.

“They are in some of the most deprived areas of the city and we just had a disadvantaged strategy come to this committee so it would seem rather bizarre to then inflict pain on schools which have a lot of disadvantaged students.”

Cllr O’Quinn said that all schools could come together and create an equal and fair admissions reduction strategy across Brighton and Hove.

The education officer from the Catholic diocese of Arundel and Brighton, Simon Parr, was a lone voice against the recommendation to make no changes.

But he was unable to vote on the decision because he attended the meeting virtually and voting was restricted to those who attended the meeting in person.

He said: “We do fully understand the consultation responses and would expect most schools to be against reductions.

“However, if the number of surplus places in the city is not addressed, some schools are going to face significant financial issues which will impact on their ability to sustain their school improvement journey.”

Mr Parr said that smaller schools faced going into the red – and “doing nothing is hypocritical”.

Council forecasts indicated that parents would apply for just 1,930 reception places in primary and infant schools in September 2025 – down 20 per cent from last September.

This year Balfour, Benfield, Moulsecoomb and West Blatchington primary schools are all reducing by a class for September.

Last year classes were cut at Hangleton and Mile Oak Primary School and West Hove Infant School in Connaught Road.