Pupils jumping ship is big concern at new school meeting

The meeting took place at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School in Shoreham on July 18
The meeting took place at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School in Shoreham on July 18
  • St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School puts in bid to run new school
  • Parents and staff from local schools attend public meeting
  • Concerns that parents could leave other schools with vacancies if school gets the green light
  • County council criticised for unreliable predictions of required pupil places
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A head teacher has addressed fears that children would jump ship to a new school planned for next year if an 11th hour bid is successful.

David Etherton, executive head teacher of St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School, was speaking at a public meeting attended by parents and staff from other primary schools in the area.

David Etherton, headteacher at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School, Shoreham. Picture: Derek Martin

David Etherton, headteacher at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School, Shoreham. Picture: Derek Martin

On behalf of his school, Mr Etherton plans to submit an application to run a new one-form entry primary school in the Adur area. The application date has not been confirmed yet but is thought to be late September.

If successful, the school would open in September 2017 to meet the demand of a growing pupil population.

But because the school wouldn’t get the green light from the government until Easter in 2017, head teachers were concerned that parents would move their children to the new school after committing to theirs.

This would leave them with vacancies and reduce the amount of government funding they get as a result.

We live in a changing educational landscape where things are becoming more and more competitive between schools and they have to do more to attract children

David Etherton

Mr Etherton said that while he didn’t like it, ‘we live in a changing educational landscape where things are becoming more and more competitive between schools and they have to do more to attract children’.

Lawrence Caughlin, the head teacher of Swiss Gardens Primary School in Shoreham, agreed that all schools ‘need to operate in this free market’ but was concerned by the short timescale.

He said it left Mr Etherton with little time ‘to gather adequate data, consult with local schools and decide on a location for this school.’

Mr Etherton indicated that the new school would temporarily be based at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School for a year while permanent premises were found.

He also quashed rumours that it would be an expansion of the existing school ‘by the back door’, saying that it did not have the space, and warned that if nothing was done, ‘one of us will have to pick up a mobile classroom’.

After the meeting, Mr Etherton said that head teachers would ‘need to work closely’ with West Sussex County Council ‘to ensure that the admissions process runs as smoothly as possible’ if the school was approved.

The head of St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School also said that the county council had ‘mucked up’ pupil figures.

He believed that West Sussex County Council had ‘mucked up several times’ over the last few years when predicting pupil numbers and cited Swiss Gardens Primary School as an example.

It was forced to have an extra 30-pupil reception class by the authority in May.

A council spokesperson said it made ‘every effort to accurately predict the future demand on school places’ is working with primary head teachers in the Shoreham area to regularly review this.

They added that the biggest challenge was anticipating the number of children who come from neighbouring authority areas and would work with neighbouring councils to collect more accurate data.

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