Schools

If you live in a village, you expect to be able to send your children to your local primary school.  This is hardly an unreasonable demand.  We all pay increasing amounts of tax, and I believe it should be a basic principle that in return we receive high quality local services.

For the overwhelming majority of parents in West Sussex, this isn't a problem.  As I know from many happy visits, we have a large number of really good primary schools at the centre of our communities.

But an unfortunate minority of parents are suddenly discovering that their local primary school is full, and that their child must attend one in another village.  There's an appeals process, but few decisions are reversed.

Last week, I met with a group of parents who were understandably up in arms about this situation.  21 children in Hassocks and four children in Hurstpierpoint have not been offered places at their local primary school for the new academic year that begins in September.

This situation is extremely upsetting for parents who would like their children to attend the local school with their friends, where they feel a sense of belonging.  It is clearly highly undesirable for parents to have to travel to another village.

Although the problem at Hassocks is particularly acute, there are also - or have been - shortages of school places in other South Downs villages, including Steyning, Partridge Green and Henfield.

I've discussed this issue with West Sussex County Council, and their excellent Cabinet Member for Schools, Peter Griffiths - who so successfully led the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on our hospitals - is already on the case.

Clearly factors like new housing need to be taken into account.  We must do everything possible to ensure that the local school is available for all parents.  I think it would be better to build temporary classrooms than to turn away local children.

Michelle Taylor