New all-through Burgess Hill free school proposed

A four-week public consultation is to be held into plans to open an all-through free school in Burgess Hill.

Monday, 14th June 2021, 5:15 pm
School classroom (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

With some 5,000 homes expected to be built in and around the town by 2031, the need for more schools is high on the local ‘to do’ list.

If all goes as planned, the free school will be situated on two sites within the 3,250-home Northern Arc development, which is being built to the north of the town.

The consultation will be the first stage of a ‘competition process’ launched by West Sussex County Council in its search for a sponsor for the new school.

A report from Paul Wagstaff, director of education and skills, said the proposal was to build a two form of entry primary school with space for 420 children, and a six form of entry secondary school with space for 900 children.

The primary school will include pre-school for up to 50 youngsters and is expected to open in September 2023, with the secondary school – which could expand to eight forms of entry (1,200 children) – opening in September 2024.

Both phases of the school as currently proposed would include a Special Support Centre for some 16 pupils each with additional social and communication needs.

The report said: “The proposal does not include post-16 provision as demand would be limited due to the very recent opening in 2020 of the sixth form college in Haywards Heath.”

The consultation will run from June 28 to July 26.

It will ask questions about the type of school that parents and others in the area would like to see, including its size, whether it should be a faith school, whether it should be single sex or co-educational, and what kind of special educational needs should be catered for.

It will also ask if there is a demand for the school to have a specialism such as sports, STEM (science technology, engineering and maths), Montessori or Steiner.

The second stage – from September – will see the council issues its specifications for the free school and seek expressions of interest from potential sponsors.

The final decision will be made by the Secretary of State in 2022.

In his report, Mr Wagstaff said doing nothing was not an option for the council, given the number of new homes being built in Mid Sussex.

He added: “It would mean the county council would be in danger of not meeting its statutory duty of ensuring sufficient schools places are available in the local area.

“All five existing secondary schools and a number of primary schools in the area could be expanded to accommodate the children from these new developments, but this would be disruptive and expensive and travel distances would be high.

“By providing a new school, many children who live in the new large-scale development of the Northern Arc of c3250 homes will be able to walk or cycle to school and the risk of disruption to other local schools would be minimised.”