Growing pupil numbers in West Sussex will put pressure on school places

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West Sussex is going to be short of school places in three years’ time, according to a government forecast.

By September 2021, an extra 702 primary places and 2,281 in secondary schools are needed.

Forecasters at the Department for Education looked at the growth in pupil numbers.

An increase in the birth rate has meant more pupils in primary for the past few years. That birth bulge is starting to feed through to secondary.

But this shortfall in places will only affect some schools and some age groups, and that is a problem already being felt in certain schools in West Sussex.

The data reveals that 54 state-funded schools across the area were full or had too many children in the school year 2016/17, 50 primaries and 4 secondaries.

These schools have a total of 468 pupils over their capacity.

But across the area there are 214 schools that have room to take more pupils, with 6,469 unfilled primary school places and 8,445 at secondaries.

Every parent wants the best education for their child and the competition for places leads to some schools receiving too many applications while others prove less popular.

In 2016/17 there were 108,753 on the school roll at all primaries and secondaries.

That is expected to rise to 120,648 in three years’ time.

While this growth is less that the current spare capacity in terms of total number, those spare school places may be in the wrong place and for the wrong age group. This will lead to the shortfalls for some schools.

Expanding popular schools and building new ones can help to deal with the uneven distribution, to match the pupils with the places.

Over the next three years the local authority has allocated funding to expand or build new schools to provide 3,392 more places. This does not include free schools or academies, which are funded centrally.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “Local authorities are responsible for managing the supply of school places in their areas and we know they are doing a good job. In 2017, nearly 95 per cent of pupils received an offer for one of their top three preferences for secondary schools.

“Funding for school places is based on local authorities’ own projections and since 2010, we have created 825,000 new school places and 90,000 between 2016 and 2017.

“There are 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools than in 2010 and we want to continue to ensure every child is offered a world-class education, wherever they are growing up. That’s why we are investing £5.8 billion to create even more good school places in the future.”