VOTE: Concern growing over school places in Midhurst and Petworth

A ‘phenomenal increase’ in demand for school places is being seen across West Sussex, the county council was warned.

In the Midhurst and Petworth area the pressure is likely to be accentuated by three large building developments planned in Midhurst, Easebourne and Fernhurst.

There are plans for some 250 new homes on the former King Edward VII site and in Fernhurst Comer Homes are proposing a residential led development of some 200 houses on the controversial former Syngenta site.

In addition Affinity Sutton has recently announced it has bought the former St Margaret’s Convent school site in Midhurst’s Petersfield Road, where a mix of affordable and homes for private sale is planned on the prime two-acre town-centre site.

Cllr Peter Griffiths, cabinet member for education and schools, said an extra 2,300 places were needed each year because of new housing development.

“By working with district and borough councils, we need to plan ahead,” he added. “We must work together in order to plan places.”

Responding to a member’s question, Cllr Griffiths said the county council’s wish would be to accommodate children in their local school, where this met the expressed preference of the parent, and a place was available.

“However, this is not always possible, especially in times of population growth, where the demand for places exceeds the current capacity of the school,” he said. “To provide an additional class with the associated capital and resource costs would not be an effective use of public resources.

“In such circumstances, a place will be offered at the parent’s next preference or, if this is not possible, at the nearest alternative school with space available.”

This applied to all phases of education, but the challenges were greatest where the legislation around infant class size applied, restricting numbers to a maximum of 30 per class teacher.

Cllr Griffiths said the county council recognised the impact on families where a place was not available within a local school.

Are you concerned about the demand for school places? Cast your vote in the panel to the right of the screen.