Worried parents have launched campaigns to save their children's schools amid fears some could be closed in a huge shake-up of primary education.

West Sussex County Council wants to reorganise 20 schools in Adur to adapt to falling pupil roll numbers and bring the district in line with the rest of the county.

Most children in Lancing, Sompting, Southwick, Portslade and Shoreham attend a first and middle school and move up to secondary school at the age of 12.

The education authority wants to create a smaller number of all-through primary schools which children leave at 11.

This would stop current funding shortages for many schools caused by hundreds of empty places.

But some schools and parents are worried about the effects closures could have on communities.

Andrea Saunders, a parent governor at Shoreham Beach First School, which is today praised in the Ofsted list of outstanding schools, said: "There are a lot of people who are very anxious that we don't lose our school. We don't know what is on the cards yet but we have been making as much noise as possible so the authorities know how we feel."

She said almost all parents at the school, which has 140 pupils, signed a letter in protest at its possible closure and families were also signing a Save Our School petition on the shorehambysea.com web site.

Mrs Saunders said: "It is a very close-knit community around the school and the school is very involved in that. If it closed we would be devastated. It would be dreadful."

She said many families would have to drive their children to other schools further away.

Governors at Fishersgate Community First School in Portslade said closure could have devastating effects on children's learning.

Chair of the governors Sally Willson said: "Fishersgate is a deprived area and the school is the only public building left. If the school is abandoned the heart will be ripped out of the community."

She said parents faced a four-mile walk to the next-nearest school or a route involving steps up and down a railway bridge which was difficult with buggies and small children.

She said: "I am convinced some parents won't make that journey regularly and the children will not be in school. Some of the most vulnerable families are reluctant to travel elsewhere so we need to bring services into the area to meet their needs."

Assistant director for children's services Mike Lee said the county council had no choice but to reorganise schools. He said there were 5,419 pupils on roll in January 2000 compared with 4,662 in September 2005.

If Adur schoolchildren move up to senior school a year earlier there will be a total of about 1,300 empty places in the district's lower schools.

Mr Lee said: "There has been a 17 per cent drop in the number of pupils in the last four years. We can't ignore that and we do need to make changes.

"The research shows that changing schools is bad for children and sets them back half a year so most people see the point of having all-through primary schools."

The changes, in September 2008 if agreed, would inevitably mean some schools were closed.

He said: "We are looking at amalgamations rather than closures but if we go ahead with plans we would expect to have fewer schools."

The schools involved are North Lancing First and Middle School; Templars First School, Sompting; White Styles Middle School, Sompting; Willows First School, Lancing; Oakfield Middle School, Lancing; Freshbrook First School, Lancing; Thornberry Middle School, Lancing; St Peter's Catholic Primary School, Shoreham; St Nicholas and St Mary's First and Middle School, Shoreham; Shoreham Beach First School; Shoreham First School; Buckingham Middle School, Shoreham; Kingston Buci First School, Shoreham; Holmbush First School, Shoreham; Glebe Middle School, Southwick; Manor Hall First School and Manor Hall Middle School, Southwick; Fishersgate Community First School, Portslade; Boundstone Community College, Lancing, and Kings Manor Community College, Shoreham.