Anger as Horsham parents told their children face a 32-mile round trip to school
and live on Freeview channel 276
The parents had all asked for their children to be given places at secondary schools in Horsham. Most had specified Tanbridge House School in Horsham as their preferred choice with Horsham’s Forest School as second choice and The Weald in Billingshurst as third.
However, instead, bewildered and angry parents have been informed by West Sussex County Council that places for their children have been allocated at Burgess Hill Academy – around 16 miles from most people’s homes in Southwater, meaning a 32-mile round trip.
One dad – Paul Hanna, a visiting academic and former research director for clinical psychology at the University of Surrey – said: “The whole process is ridiculous. You make three choices and you get none of them.”
He, and dozens of other angry parents, are now demanding explanations from the county council and are calling on local councillors and Horsham MP Jeremy Quin for help. Meanwhile, the parents are organising a meeting to be held in Southwater on Saturday to see what can be done.
Most say that they plan to appeal against the council’s decision.
The only schools listed in the catchment area for Southwater are Southwater Junior Academy and Tanbridge House School.
Paul hit out at the whole selection process being ‘a lottery.’ And in a letter to the county council said: “Given the current 'mental health crisis' the UK is faced with, particularly when it comes to children and young people's mental health, coupled with the fact that these children missed out on friendship building during the pandemic and have only recently started developing such essential relationships, it seems a misguided decision to send a small number of children some 16 miles from their home location and sever any friendships they had formed.
"In addition, such a decision making process has created unnecessary stress, anxiety and uncertainty to our son, and many others, at a time when certainty and stability are essential to a young person’s mental health.”
He added: “The process of school allocation has been far from transparent, and could more realistically be described as an immoral illusion of choice. I say this as not only were none of the three prioritised 'choices' honoured, but when we went to the three school open evenings, each of the headteachers stood in front of our children and spoke about the choice of schools as ‘the biggest decision of the child's life to date.
“As I am sure you can imagine, such rhetoric has left my son extremely anxious and concerned given he has now been informed that he can not have any of his choices, and thus the ‘biggest decision of his life’ has been taken out of his hands and has been made by something of a lottery.”
West Sussex County Council has been approached for comment. However, it had earlier issued a statement saying that a higher number of children in West Sussex had been offered their first preference secondary school than last year.
This year, said the council, 8,161 of the 9,444 total number of applicants would be given their first preference school for September, an increase from last year’s 8,110 first preference offer.