Shortage of places in village schools

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has taken up the cases of dozens of parents in Mid Sussex who cannot get their children into local village schools.

Mr Herbert's intervention follows a meeting with around 25 parents in Hassocks on Friday afternoon (27 February) in which he heard about the shortage of places at Hassocks Infant School and St Lawrence Primary School in Hurstpierpoint.

Mr Herbert has discussed the matter with Hassocks County Councillor Colin Wilsdon and has written a formal letter to the West Sussex Cabinet Member for Education and Schools Peter Griffiths to relay his concerns and those of local parents in Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint.

In his letter, Mr Herbert said that 21 local children in Hassocks have not been offered places at the infant school and 4 local children have not been offered places at the primary school in Hurstpierpoint for the new academic year that begins in September.

Mr Herbert said that the problem is "very upsetting" for parents who would like their children to attend the local school with their friends, where they feel a sense of belonging, where their older siblings may have been educated and where they already have links to after-school clubs.  He said it was "highly undesirable" for parents to have to travel to other villages with their children and that it will cause them "enormous difficulties".

He has also suggested that, if the problem was not predicted, a review of the County Council's forecasting may be appropriate.  Mr Herbert confirmed that, along with Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint, he is also aware of a shortage of school places in Steyning, Partridge Green and Henfield.

After the meeting, Nick Herbert commented: "I was pleased to have an opportunity to meet some of the parents affected by the shortage of school places in Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint.  I was struck by the number who attended.  I had not realised that so many people in my constituency were affected by this.

"When I was elected nearly four years ago, one of the things I was told to watch out for was that the local school-age population was falling and there would start being a viability problem in some of our primary schools.  The opposite seems to be happening in some of our villages, and it's clearly a major issue for some families. 

"It's very sad for parents who, quite reasonably, want to send their children to the local village school.  It's not just the hassle of having to take children to another village - I think we all just have the sense that children ought to be able to go to their local school. 

"In some places, this has clearly been a problem for some time and we ought to do something about it if we can.  That's why I've taken up this matter with the County Council and I'm very grateful to Peter Griffiths who has already agreed to investigate this problem."



Notes for Editors

1. The meeting took place at The Health Centre, Windmill Avenue, Hassocks, West Sussex BN6 8LY on Friday 27 February.

2. A photograph of the meeting is shown above.

Christopher N Howarth