County education chiefs have spoken out following an outcry over a lack of school choices for children in Horsham.
Scores of parents in Southwater have been told that their children are to miss out on their first choice of secondary school in September. And some have been informed that their children will have to face lengthy daily commutes to attend schools in Crawley.
The news has been met with anger from parents and tears from their children.
But in a statement today, West Sussex County Council - which is responsible for allocating school places - said that most children in the county had been offered schools of their choice.
A spokesman said: “The vast majority of applicants - 96.5 per cent - were offered a place at one of their three preferred schools, with 84.2 per cent given their first preference. This year we processed a total of 9,099 applications, an increase of nearly 400 from 2018.
“The allocation in the district of Horsham was carried out in accordance with our published arrangements, the School Admissions Code and school over-subscription criteria. Some schools were heavily over-subscribed and in a very small number of cases it was not possible to meet any of the three preferences made by applicants.
“Where this happens the local authority has a duty to allocate a place at the catchment school if space allows, or where the catchment school is full, the nearest school with a space available.
“We do appreciate how disappointing it can be for the small number of students who were not allocated a place at one of their three preferred schools.
“With the new free school, Bohunt, opening in Horsham this September, the school’s trust was required to handle its own admissions for 2019 only. This means parents offered a place at Bohunt have also received an offer from our admissions team for another West Sussex school.
“When we have received final confirmation of the parents who have accepted Bohunt’s offer of a place, available places at other local schools as a result will be released and offered to children automatically placed on the waiting lists.
“This will be in order of priority based on the oversubscription policy for each school and new offers will be made after 29 March 2019.
“Parents who were not offered a place at a school of their preference also have the right of appeal, full information can be found on the county council’s website www.westsussex.gov.uk”