No space for new school in Mid Sussex expansion proposal

Downlands Community School. Hassocks. Picture : Liz Pearce.  LP071014DC05 SUS-140710-165812008
Downlands Community School. Hassocks. Picture : Liz Pearce. LP071014DC05 SUS-140710-165812008
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The plan for school expansion in Mid Sussex has come under criticism amid suggestions a new school should be built in Haywards Heath.

The proposal intends to increase the number of students at Downlands Community School, Hassocks, Warden Park Primary Academy, Haywards Heath, and Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School, Cuckfield.

Mid Sussex District Councillor Pete Bradbury said: “There should be a school proposal for Ashenground in Haywards Heath, it isn’t in there. We need the extra places in the right place.

“Ashenground is the only division in the whole of West Sussex that doesn’t have a school.”

The councillor agreed the proposal to expand Warden Park ‘makes perfect sense’.

But he said the public consultation, which ends on Tuesday, should be longer.

“The public aren’t familiar with it, it should be a normal period of 90 days rather than four weeks,” he said.

The plan is to add a form to Downlands, resulting in a rise from 210 to 240 places by September 2016.

Holy Trinity would go from 45 places to 60 places whilst Warden Park from 50 to 60 places, both by September 2015. The scheme is in part due to an increase in birth rate and in response to migration and major house building.

The individual governing bodies of each of the schools will take the decision on whether schools expand.

England’s pupil population is set to exceed eight million by 2023 for the first time in almost half a century.

In the spring of this year the County Council received new information from the Child Health Bureau about the number of pre-school children who are living in West Sussex. This information shows the number of pre-school children continues to grow. With inward migration and housing development also impacting on numbers it is anticipated that the need for places will be permanent and sustained. It has been acknowledged expansion of Holy Trinity will have traffic implications particularly with the access to the school for pedestrians and cars at dropping off and picking up times.

The planned expansion of Downlands is in response to significant recent housing development in the town and a changing demography, leading to numbers of secondary aged pupils increasing.

Warden Park plans to facilitate the expansion by making better use of some existing under-utilised spaces as well as some new build to enhance facilities suitable for the larger numbers.

The new organisation would reduce the need for mixed age teaching.

All parties concerned recognise that there are traffic implications for Warden Park and Holy trinity, which will be considered in planning applications.

This September Handcross Primary School added an extra class to expand the school by 30 places.

Responses can be made at www.westsussex.gov.uk/haveyoursay