Expansion of a Shoreham primary school was handled ‘despicably’ by the county council, according to parents.
Swiss Gardens Primary School was told during Easter its next reception intake would increase from two classes to three this September.
Parent Chris Betterton said the communication from West Sussex County Council had been ‘woeful’ at an Adur County Local Committee (CLC) meeting last Thursday (May 19), while fellow parent Caroline Lawrence added: “The way it was done was despicable. We would like to know what is going to happen in the next few years.”
She has started a petition to stop the school becoming a permanent three-form entry school, arguing that the school is ‘already at capacity with no playing field to call our own and with minimal hall and outdoor space’.
It has already been signed by almost 300 people and requests ‘a comprehensive document outlining your strategies to deal with the ongoing increase in required primary places in the Shoreham area over the next few years with supportive data and calculations to ensure us that all steps have and will be taken to consider all options and that they adhere to guidelines set out in the following documentation’.
Mr Betterton explained that the school was originally a two-form infant school, but had then become a full two-form primary, and while it was a ‘wonderful’ school, it did struggle with the physical constraints of the site.
Parents had only found out about the use of emergency bulge powers by the county council after Easter, while Mr Betterton said that some prospective parents had still not been told about expansion of the reception year.
Ms Lawrence felt that the admissions team had tried to give as many parents their first choices, but argued many had been ‘mis-sold’ places, and thought if they knew it was a three-form reception year they might have chosen different schools.
She added: “Parents are really disappointed how it has been dealt with.”
In a statement last month headteacher Lawrence Caughlin and chairman of governors Lynne Hamilton Pearson said: “We are told by the local authority that this is a one-year plan and we are not aware of their intentions beyond that. We received communication directing us to take extra children during the Easter holidays.
“We had no plans to expand pupil numbers at Swiss Gardens but we will be welcoming our new children and families to the school.”
This week a county council spokesman said: “We know how important school admissions are and try our hardest to meet parents’ preferences in line with statutory guidance. We have been able to do this at Swiss Gardens by adding the extra class.
“There have been 460 pupil admissions in Shoreham which could not have been placed in the area without adding this extra class. 87 children have been placed at Swiss Gardens which will be broken into three separate classes.
“Several other schools have already been expanded and still provide a good quality of education. We are currently looking at all options available to meet the demand in future years.”
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