13 September 2016

Brighton & Hove’s secondary school admissions arrangements

Councillors will consider at a meeting on Monday 19 September the results of the widespread public engagement that took place across the city earlier this year on Brighton & Hove’s secondary school admissions system.

A report being presented to Brighton & Hove City Council’s children, young people and skills (CYPS) committee suggests a number of possible future changes to the system.

It was originally hoped that the committee would recommend for the changes to go out to formal consultation this autumn, as was highlighted during the engagement exercise. However, the committee will be asked to agree that changes to the admission arrangements should be delayed.

The proposed delay is due to a lack of certainty over where a permanent site for the University of Brighton Academies Trust’s proposed new secondary free school, for the eastern central area of the city, will be located.

The council is working with the University of Brighton Academies Trust, the government’s Education Funding Agency and local partners to secure a permanent site as soon as possible. Two sites for the new school are currently being pursued. These are the Brighton General Hospital site at the top of Elm Grove, and part of City College’s estate on the east side of Pelham Road in the city centre.

The council has a legal duty to have enough school places available across the city as a whole for all residents who request one.

In 2018, there will be 2,615 secondary age (Year 7) places available in the city, even without the proposed new school. This is enough places for the projected pupil numbers that will be required, enabling the council to fulfil its legal duties.

With the proposed new school there will be 2,795 places available in Brighton & Hove.

Pupil numbers predictions suggest that in 2018 there will be more pupils than places available in the Dorothy Stringer/Varndean catchment area. The new school is due to open within this area and will be able to help accommodate these extra pupils.

The chair of the council’s cross-party working group on secondary school admissions, Councillor Daniel Chapman, said: “With secondary age pupil numbers rising there is a need for a new secondary school in the city.  The council has been working closely with the University of Brighton Academies Trust to help them find a permanent site for their new school.

“The new school is due to open in 2018 in the eastern central area of the city.  For the first year it is anticipated that the new school will use home to school distance as a tie-breaker in the event of over-subscription, so this will help address the need for places in this area. The University of Brighton Academies Trust is keen to be part of the Brighton and Hove family of schools and so will look to be part of full admission arrangement from September 2019.

“We do need to change the current admission arrangements to accommodate the new school and the increase in secondary school pupil numbers. However due to the lack of certainty about the proposed new free school site, it’s too early to make proposed changes to the admission arrangements.”

“The cross party working group will reconvene once the site of the new school is confirmed to make a recommendation to go out to formal consultation in due course.”

The engagement exercise the council ran earlier this year on secondary school admissions showed a wide variety in the priorities people expressed, but no strong consensus across the city for how best to change the current system.

The responses have helped inform proposals put together by a working party of headteachers, governors and councillors from all parties at the request of the cross-party school organisation working group.

The proposals could mean a number of possible changes to the city’s catchment areas and admissions priority system in the future. However, these proposals will need to be reviewed when the site of the new school is confirmed.

  • The University of Brighton’s proposed new secondary free school should be incorporated into the Dorothy Stringer/Varndean catchment area
  • The south-western boundary of the Dorothy Stringer/Varndean catchment area should be moved west to Montpelier Road
  • The Coldean area of the city should be included in the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) catchment area rather than in the Patcham High catchment area
  • A higher priority should be introduced for some children who are eligible for free school meals.

More information

The papers for the meeting can be viewed here

The council is committed to helping the University of Brighton Academies Trust find a permanent site for the proposed new secondary free school.

Any decision to pursue a particular site for the new school would be subject both to planning permission and the agreement of the government’s Education Funding Agency.

If a permanent site for the new free school is not found in time for a September 2018 opening, the school will open in temporary accommodation instead and it is expected it will use home to school distance as its tie-breaker in the event of over-subscription.

The proposals being considered relate to the city’s community secondary schools and academies. These are: Blatchington Mill; Brighton Aldridge Community Academy; Dorothy Stringer; Hove Park; Longhill; Patcham High; Portslade Aldridge Community Academy; and Varndean.

It also includes the proposed new secondary free school as the University of Brighton Academies Trust has indicated that they intend to be part of the council’s admissions system.

As faith schools, Cardinal Newman and the King’s School both act as their own admissions authorities and set their own arrangements.

Government rules mean that decisions regarding school admissions for 2018 need to be made by 15 March 2017.

The council must ensure there are sufficient places in the city for all pupils who require one and does not have a legal duty to offer a catchment area school place to everyone in a catchment area who applies for one.

The council’s methods for pupil numbers forecasting was recently the subject of an independent review. With the University of Brighton free school proposal now approved by the government, it is anticipated that there will be sufficient places available to accommodate the rising number of secondary aged pupils up to 2026.