Noble efforts to boost school places

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A FEW weeks ago, I wrote concerning the difficulties of pupils living near the seafront getting a place at Heene First School.

There is excellent news that there has been some progress in this regard.

The head teacher and governors have looked closely into the situation in the school and have managed to find room for 15 more pupils for the next academic year. This has resulted in a number of the most geographically disadvantaged children getting a place and not having to travel all the way to Durrington at the age of five.

This provision is possible only by the employment of a new teacher and using every possible space for teaching in the school. Happily, this also means a reduction of staff/student ratios to the advantage of the children. However, it is possible for only this year (there is not space for more).

The further good news is the extreme openness of West Sussex County Council to consider expanding Heene School to take 15 extra children in future years. This expansion is still in the planning process, and so cannot yet be given in detail. Nevertheless, it is being addressed with urgency by both the county education officials and the school.

If it succeeds, it will alleviate some of the pressure of numbers. Credit where credit is due – county education officials have moved rapidly and with vision. I just hope it is supported by the elected councillors. Despite this initiative, there still remains a significant problem with school places south of the railway line, near the town centre.

Nationally, we have heard that there is the largest baby boom since the 1960s.

Figures we have received from County Hall for the Heene School area confirm that this is one of the most affected in Worthing. The present projected numbers from county show further increase and we already know from this year that those figures are serious underestimates.

So what is to be done? The best solution for the area is a new school, or a greatly expanding Heene or neighbouring St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.

Both of these solutions seem impossible. However, perhaps instead of building new flats on the next site that becomes vacant (which only increases the pressure on services, including schools), thought could be given to new schooling provision.

Otherwise our seafront is likely to become an undesirable area for young families and possibly fall into dilapidation.

Rev John Chitham

governor

Heene Church of England

First School