Heene school is working to increase capacity

AS a governor of Heene Church of England First School, I was saddened to read your article concerning young Jada Gordon and her inability to get into Heene (her catchment school) or any other school nearby.

This is an annual problem over which Heene School has no control but which we are trying all we can to help.

We are in the middle of a building programme which is increasing our intake form 75 each year to 90 (a 20 per cent increase).

This is being made possible by the county council releasing around £1million pounds at very short notice and completing the building in record time.

However, that is only solving last year’s problem.

Over and above this increase we have had another 15 plus appeals from within our catchment area and there are many others who did not appeal.

In short, we have a rapid population increase in our area and the local community needs even more funding from the county council.

Heene school catchment faces a problem unique in Worthing, and not just because it is oversubscribed from within catchment.

Our school catchment area is (more or less) between the town centre and Grand Avenue, south of the railway line to the sea.

As usual in this situation, the children living furthest from the school do not get in and have to go to another school. But because Heene School itself lies to the north of the catchment area, the children who fail to gain entry are always those by the sea.

Furthermore, because every other school immediately north of Heene is also full, these children are always allocated schools near Durrington. Their preferences are always irrelevant.

This disgraceful situation is rooted in a basic fact of geography. We are Sussex by the Sea and there are no schools south of Worthing pier! (One might have thought that this fact would have been grasped this rather earlier!)

However just because there are some free school places in the furthest corner of Worthing for these young children, the council have not been legally obliged to provide more school places.

Until now, that is. The situation has become so serious that action is being taken to provide new places, as with our building project. But this is still playing catch up. The situation is worsening and it has not helped Jada.

What is the solution?

There is no solution tinkering with catchment boundaries, unless we want to be in the absurd situation where Heene School is no longer in its own catchment area, and children living next door to the school have to go to elsewhere!

No: for the sake of the children near the seafront, the traffic congestion at West Worthing crossing in term time, the safety of children making long journeys and especially community coherence, we need further school expansion.

In the longer term, the community requires a full primary school (which Heene was in the past). In the medium term there needs to be further expansion of Heene School which will cost a significant amount of money. I believe that there is the will in the county council to tackle this but that it needs encouragement to prioritise our problem.

It is time that these children had justice!

Rev. John Chitham,

Heene School governor and vicar of St Matthew’s Church