Parents seek pupil data for new school bid

Shoreham parents Chris Betterton and Catherine Arnold have put together a survey as a new school bid gets underway. Picture: Derek Martin
Shoreham parents Chris Betterton and Catherine Arnold have put together a survey as a new school bid gets underway. Picture: Derek Martin

A pair of Shoreham parents is leading a movement to get more information about pupil places in the area as plans for a new school get underway.

Chris Betterton and Catherine Arnold are members of the Future of Adur Schools Team, a Facebook group that is ‘supportive of good, long-term strategic planning for school places in Adur’, according to Chris.

The pair has compiled an online survey aimed at parents with children who are at school in the Adur area.

The reason they have compiled the survey is because they claim the data that West Sussex County Council uses to predict future demand on school places is ‘weak’.

The survey is in response to a planned bid by St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School to run a new one-form entry primary school.

Chris said: “We have to work with the council. The council admits its own data is weak.”

He added that primary school headteachers ‘were told four years ago they would have a bulge’ of pupils ‘but it didn’t happen’.

At a public meeting held at St Nicolas and St Mary CE Primary School about the new school bid, Catherine and Chris presented data from the county council which suggested that many schools in Shoreham were full.

But staff from other schools in Adur who attended the meeting criticised the data for being too narrow.

After the meeting, Chris said: “We’re working with what we have got, what is in the public domain. We would love to get more data, particularly about the Brighton drift.”

The Brighton drift is the phenomenon of young families moving to Adur from the city, which current methods of predicting pupil places can’t measure easily.

Chris and Catherine have also put in a Freedom of Information request to the county council to see if they can get anonymous preschool and nursery attendance figures.

A spokesperson for West Sussex County Council said: “We make every effort to accurately predict the future demand on school places and are currently working with primary headteachers in the Shoreham area to regularly review the current and future provision.

“Despite our best efforts to predict future demand and working closely with neighbouring authorities, one of the challenges we face is anticipating the number of children who come from neighbouring authority areas.

“We have already identified a future need for additional primary school places to the DofE and a free school could be one way of achieving this. In order to allow for movers during the school year and parental preference, we also try to build in a small 5% capacity surplus.

“We have been assisting parents in the area by providing high level school data but we are unable to supply any information which could potentially identify individual children or families for example small samples of postcode data.”

If you are a parent who wants to complete the survey, click here.