A headteacher has described delays to the opening a new primary school in Shoreham as ‘frustrating’, as pupil numbers in the district continue to rise.
St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School in Eastern Avenue was granted permission to open a sister school in Shoreham, which will be named St Clement CE Primary Academy, by the Department for Education in April 2017.
It was hoped the school would open in September this year, but headteacher David Etherton said that due to the major building work which will be involved, the school may not open until September 2020.
Mr Etherton said: “This is a tremendously exciting project to create more school places for local children – but frustrating that we cannot meet the preferences of parents sooner rather than later.
“Although pupil numbers have plateaued in the area for this September, they are expected to rise again in September 2019.
“The Local Authority are relying on St Clement CE Primary Academy to meet the growing demand for places in the Shoreham area.”
St Nicolas and St Mary’s and it’s pre-school nursery, Little Fishes, have noticed a ‘huge increase’ in families joining from the new estates on the former Southlands Hospital site – a trend which is expected to continue, Mr Etherton said.
Many parents with pre-school children had shown ‘strong interest’ in the new school, he said, adding: “St Nic’s is heavily oversubscribed and it will be great for parents to have the option to send children to our sister school.”
He added that the delays in opening St Clement could force a local school to take on an additional class.
But a spokesman from West Sussex County Council said existing permanent expansions and bulge classes have already been put in place to cater for an increase in pupil numbers in 2019 and beyond.
“For on-time West Sussex applications in 2018, every child has been allocated a place at a school within the Shoreham area if this was one of the three preferences of their parents or carers,” the spokesman said.
The Department for Education are actively in the process of securing a suitable site for the new school in Shoreham, according to Mr Etherton.
A ‘huge amount’ of work has already gone into the new school, he said, including the creation of a new multi-academy trust, the Bishop Otter Academy Trust.
St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School are currently consulting staff, parents and the wider community about becoming an academy and joining the trust.
The school has undergone expansion since deciding to take on another class per year in 2012.
Six other free school projects were granted permission in West Sussex last year, but Mr Etherton said all were facing delays due to legal or site issues.
A spokeman for Future Adur Schools Team (FAST), a group of parent campaigners, said: “When new schools don’t get built, more and more kids are crammed into existing schools without the space for the extra capacity.
“We are aware of serious concerns from school heads that this puts at risk the safety, health and well being of a generation of kids.”
In statement, West Sussex County Council said: “We make every effort to accurately predict the future demand on school places and are currently working with headteachers, the DfE/ESFA and the district councils in the Shoreham area to regularly review the current and future provision.
“Our Planning School Places 2018 report already states 2020 as the proposed implementation date for St Clement Primary Free School in Shoreham which will be delivered and built by the Department for Education as part of the government’s free school programme.
“Our report also outlines existing permanent expansions and bulge classes which have previously been put in place to cater for an increase in pupil numbers in 2019 and beyond.
“This has meant that there are currently six schools within the area that have spaces for the 2018 Starting School Intake.
“For on-time West Sussex applications in 2018, every child has been allocated a place at a school within the Shoreham area if this was one of the three preferences of their parents or carers.”
READ MORE: New free schools approved for West Sussex