PARENTS reacted with delight after controversial plans to change school catchment areas and slash primary school intakes were abandoned.

In a shock U-turn yesterday the city council also indicated it would scrap plans for a proposed additional secondary free school, which had been planned to open in 2019 at the Brighton General hospital site.

The council said the plans have been abandoned because new census data showed schools would not be as stretched as had been expected and the secondary schools had offered to take additional pupils.

Parent Dave Boyle, who submitted freedom of information requests and organised petitions in his fight against the plans, said: “I’m sorry we’ve had to spend so much time becoming education policy experts over the last six months, but I’m thrilled the council has now made the right decision.”

The plans are not technically dead yet. But following a public consultation a report published yesterday – for consideration at Monday’s meeting of the schools committee – proposed scrapping all the controversial aspects of the scheme. And all three parties’ education spokespeople have told The Argus the plan will now be abandoned.

The report proposes:

  • no catchment area changes
  • Benfield and Hertford primary schools to remain two-form intakes
  • new free school plan scrapped

Four of the city’s secondary schools will take additional pupils on a temporary or permanent basis, to accommodate the demographic “bulge” which provoked September’s consultation.

Green and Conservative Party education spokeswomen Councillors Alex Phillips and Vanessa Brown both criticised the schools for not having made their offers prior to the beginning of the lengthy, costly consultation process.

Under the revised plans, a few dozen children will still miss out on their preferred school.

Councillor Dan Chapman, chairman of the cross-party working group on the project, said: “I appreciate this has been difficult for a lot of parents, and I sympathise with them completely. But we needed to go through this process to get to where we are.”,,


THESE proposals, first announced in September, have been so universally unpopular with parents they have provoked petitions, protests and threats of legal challenges.

The recent public consultation of 1,000 residents, released for the first time yesterday, shows as many as nine in ten opposed plans to reduce primary school intakes and only one in five thought catchment changes were a good idea.

In November, Ollie Tate presented a petition from more than 1,300 parents to full council, opposing the plans.

Yesterday he said: “It’s been exhausting for all the families involved but it’s brought a tight community even closer together.

“And despite a heated and passionate campaign, I’m really heartened by the fact that the council has been flexible enough to listen to the parents and the schools involved.

“We’ve appreciated all along that the council has faced some tough decisions – bad policymaking in the past means that all choices fail to provide catchments which catch. I’m delighted that our voices have been heard.”

Kevin O’Sullivan spoke to November’s meeting on behalf of 1,450 signatories from West Hove.

He said yesterday: “I’m delighted with the outcome, and the fact that the children in our area will continue to have a choice as they progress to secondary school.

“Many thanks to all the parents who participated in the consultation meetings, sent feedback, signed the petition and attended the committee meetings – democracy in action.”

Parents and councillors in Hove fought against changes which would have seen children from Wish ward having to travel three and a half miles to PACA in Portslade.

Parent Kirsten Cheesman said: “I am absolutely delighted with the outcome of the secondary school catchment area consultation.

“Not making any changes to the existing catchment areas is the right decision and the most sensible, taking account of the strength of community feeling. It demonstrates a joined-up approach which is mutually beneficial to all concerned.”

Wish ward Councillor Robert Nemeth said: “Garry Peltzer Dunn and I have fought tirelessly on behalf of our residents to defeat what we have seen from the outset as an unfair deal for the children and parents of West Hove.

“Children should be able to walk to school where possible, kept with their friends if possible, and parents should have choice where they send their children if possible.

“Each of these was clearly possible from day one yet the Labour administration continued regardless.”

Three primary schools will still be reducing in size, but those changes were not controversial. The report recommends that proposed changes to reduce admission numbers by 30 at West Hove Infant (Connaught Road site), Moulsecoomb Primary and Coombe Road Primary schools go ahead.


The secondary catchment changes would have affected children starting Year 7 in 2019 and would have lasted two years. The changes were due to affect four main geographical areas.

In the west, part of the Hove Park / Blatchington Mill catchment area (map above, purple) would instead feed into PACA.

In the north, the bright green area would have switched from the Stringer/Varndean catchment to Patcham High.

In the centre, the two dark green strips would have changed from Stringer/Varndean to Hove Park/Blatchington.

And in Elm Grove, the area coloured fuchsia on the map would have been removed from Stringer/Varndean and instead pupils would have headed to Longhill school.

Benfield and Hertford Primary Schools would have been cut from two intake classes to one.