Two West Sussex schools to close permanently amid falling pupil numbers

Councillors have voted to close St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Two primary schools in West Sussex will close in five months' time, the council has confirmed.

St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School in central Brighton and St Peter’s Community Primary and Nursery School in Portslade will close their doors on 31 August 2024.

The decisions to close the schools are part of the measures to address the impact of falling pupil numbers in the city.

Proposals to reduce the number of pupils joining reception years in September 2025 in 6 other primary schools was agreed in January.

The council conformed the schools will close despite protests and opposition from families. Credit: ITV Meridian

Councillor Jacob Taylor, co-chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Children, Families and School’s Committee, said: “Firstly, I want to acknowledge what difficult decisions these have been. We’ve heard throughout the process of the passion and love felt for both schools.

“It is with a heavy heart that we find ourselves in this position. But, due to the way the government funds schools and falling pupil numbers, we’re in a crisis situation with the city’s primary schools structurally underfunded.

“We’re not the only council facing this situation, but with 29 out of 48 of the city’s primary schools running budget deficits, we are in the worst position in the country. Reducing the number of the excess places is the right thing to do to secure the long-term future of the city’s schools.

“We recognise this has been a long and painful process for everyone involved in the schools, and we are also sorry for that. There are a number of statutory stages to go through when proposing school closures, and this is the process we have had to follow.

“We will continue to work very closely with headteachers and governing boards of all primary schools in the city to manage the process.

“Our priority now is to continue supporting pupils to make sure the moves to new schools are as positive as possible for them and their families.”

The council’s priority is now on supporting pupils and their families to make the moves to alternative schools as smooth as possible.

A ‘transition board’ has been set up to co-ordinate the work, which includes parent representation through Brighton & Hove’s Parent Carers’ Council, the heads of the 2 schools and a range of lead professionals.

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The board is also co-ordinating links with other support services to make sure the individual needs of every child are met.

Additional funding is in place to support the moves as required, which includes funding towards any costs of new uniforms for pupils.

The council is contacting primary schools in Brighton & Hove to support the transfers for the children from the 2 closing schools, and working with West Sussex County Council on supporting school moves for St Peter’s pupils and their families in West Sussex.

The transition board is also over-seeing nursery places and are offering to work directly with the parents who have yet to find an alternative place for their child.

Parents and carers of pupils at the 2 schools can apply at any time for move, and we will deal with the applications as a priority. The council’s school admissions team are already supporting children to move schools.

The council is also contacting everyone who has applied for a place next year at St Bartholomew’s Church of England Primary School and St Peter’s Community Primary and Nursery School.