Parents in West Hove have been collecting signatures for a petition to fight against controversial catchment area changes.
A campaign group, Against West Hove Secondary Catchment Changes, has been set up to oppose the temporary changes, which would be in place from 2019 to 2021. New boundaries would be drawn up for 2021 onwards when the new secondary free school is set to open at the Brighton General Hospital site
The council has proposed the move to reduce pressure on oversubscribed schools Dorothy Stringer and Varndean, by narrowing the catchment, and moving some children to Longhill or Blatchington Mill/Hove Park The latter catchment would then be oversubscribed, so children in West Hove would be moved to the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA).
Campaigners said: “It would mean that residents in Hove would not be in catchment for any secondary schools in Hove and would, instead, be expected to travel to the other side of Mile Oak taking away two previous walking distance choices and forcing them to travel long distances to school.”
The campaign said the move would divide the school community and friendship groups, that there are 'limited transport links' from West Hove to PACA, that it leaves a lack of choice, and that the proposals for the new catchments were 'rushed'.
On the group's Facebook page a plea from local schoolchildren Amelie and Sophie (pictured above) was posted. They said: "Brighton and Hove Council are proposing a new crazy plan about where we go to secondary school.
"They're proposing that kids living to the West of our school (us) will have no choice but be sent to a school in a different area (Portslade) which is over an hours walk away. Most of our friends live East of our school, so they'll still get to choose to go to one of the secondary schools in Hove 20-30 mins walk away.
"We really don't want to be split from our mates when we go to big school, so please please sign this council petition against it."
What’s more, campaigners claim headteachers at Varndean, Dorothy Stringer and Blatchington Mill said they could increase their intake to help solve the problem.
Ashley Harrold, headteacher at Blatchington Mill in Hove, said his school could accommodate all children in Wish Ward (West Hove) that would be affected by the changes. He said: “We have been clear to the local authority that we would wish to expand our intake in Year 7 and therefore cannot understand why this has not been considered within the projections for the catchment areas.”
Cllr Robert Nemeth, Wish Ward councillor, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the sheer weight of opposition to this proposal by residents of Wish Ward. The proposal is fundamentally wrong and anybody that weighs it up can see that.”
Cllr Dan Chapman, children’s committee chairman, told parents on Monday: “I’m aware of the strength of feeling on this issue, and The feedback from all those consultation meetings and all the responses from the consultation will be taken into account.”