It was good to swap the Brexit brinkmanship at Westminster for the very real concerns affecting many constituents on a day-to-day basis with a meeting of the County Local Committee at the Shoreham Centre on Thursday dealing with local school places.
After more than 280 hours of debate in Parliament the EU Withdrawal Bill that makes our exit from the EU a reality passed into law last week as the Lords conceded to the will of the elected House.
That is an important hurdle but there is still much more to come with legislation on trade and other areas of the detail of Brexit as the negotiations continue. So lots more debating, voting and Parliamentary high jinks still ahead.
Meanwhile, there was a good turnout of parents from Adur to hear from local councillors and county council education officers about the allocation of secondary school places from 2019.
Despite securing an additional £28million from Government for West Sussex schools there remain serious problems with the level of funding and we have much more work to do to secure genuinely fair funding. However, there are also concerns about the sufficiency of secondary school places as Shoreham Academy has become a victim of its own success as an ‘outstanding’ school.
Last year many pupils from Swiss Gardens Primary in particular found themselves on the waiting list for their nearest secondary school and while this year supply and demand just about balanced out, this will be a growing problem in the future particularly with the arrival of new families moving into the many new developments planned.
While the obvious solution may seem to just build a new secondary school in Shoreham, that doesn’t help other schools in Adur and beyond which are likely to have surplus capacity for several years to come.
In particular, the Sir Robert Woodard Academy has more than 400 surplus places and only marginally missed out on a ‘good’ rating from Ofsted due to the new inspection process. The cost of carrying a spare secondary place works out at around £5,000 each so this is not the best way of using precious school funds.
It was useful therefore for parents to hear about the wider options available for their children graduating to secondary school next year where historically they have travelled beyond Adur to Steyning Grammar, Davison’s and St Andrew’s for example.
It was interesting that many of the questions were to do with safe routes to school, not least from Shoreham to Sompting, clearly more work needs to be done to improve practical travel options.
Given the level of inward immigration to Shoreham, I have no doubt that an additional secondary school will be needed at some stage but it is important that it is done in a planned and balanced way that benefits the whole pupil community and family of schools locally.
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