Lewes school closure: St Pancras parents say they do not know where their children are going after council's ‘lack of communication’
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In November 2023 the County Council agreed the closure of St Pancras Catholic Primary School, which comes into force on August 31.
But St Pancras Governor Caroline Clark said many parents still do not know where their children will be going.
Caroline said: “We were assured by East Sussex County Council that there were more than enough places for the pupils who live here in the town to go to a school in the town. And we were given the strong impression there'd be a choice of school.”
She said: “I don't feel they've lived up to the expectation they gave us.”
Caroline said the council were vague about the number of spaces so governors could not assure parents they would get their first choice.
She said: “There was the inevitable immediate exodus of children from parents who were more media savvy who got online and applied as soon as they could.”
But Caroline said that once existing places in other schools were occupied, other parents were left unsure about where their children would go. She said parents applying for a new school because of the closure must go through the same applications process as those who have chosen to move their children mid year.
Caroline said she wants ‘100 per cent certainty that siblings can be put together in a school of the parents’ choice’, but said schools need ESCC’s permission to open extra spaces. She said: “It doesn’t feel like there’s going to be any choice. It feels like they’re just going to choose one of these schools to open extra capacity at.”
Parent Nick Hazel from Ringmer said: “Both of our children were at St Pancras and on hearing the news we applied to get them into Wallands.”
But Nick said only one child has got a place while the other is still at St Pancras. He said: “It’s very frustrating because we were assured that there were enough places in Lewes schools for all the children.”
Nick said: “Our eldest now is in Year 4 and he’s stuck at St Pancras. All of his mates have left already and he's feeling pretty lonely.”
Parent Sonia Tann, from Lewes, said: “I have two children – one in reception and one in year three – and I've applied for another school but I'm still waiting to hear back.”
She said: “I’ve phoned around all the schools in Lewes and I've been told by everyone that they’re all full.”
She continued: “I know that they're waiting for the council to tell them where the spaces are going to be made available so we're really just all playing the waiting game. It's such a disappointment because we've been basically put in the same group as all these other parents who are choosing to change schools.”
She said: “There definitely needs to be a separate application process.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “The council has been working with the school community since the difficult decision to close St Pancras school was taken last year. We carefully considered the feedback received during the initial consultation by the school’s governing body and the subsequent representation period. However, the challenges facing St Pancras relating to quality of provision and low pupil numbers remained, and the closure of the school was approved by the council in November.
“As set out in our letter to parents and carers dated 16 November 2023, they were asked to express a preference for a place at an alternative school by 15 January 2024. Parents and carers were asked to name up to three schools they would prefer their children to attend from 1 September 2024. A school place will be offered either at one of the preferred schools named on the application form or, if this is not possible, at the nearest school to their child’s home where a place is available. Although we will try to meet parents and carers preferences wherever possible, unfortunately we cannot guarantee to do so, and the allocation of places will be made in line with the admissions criteria.
“The council is working with local schools to allocate places for September and can confirm that there will be sufficient places available in Lewes schools for every child who needs a place. Allocation decisions will be confirmed to parents and carers on or before 16 April 2024 as explained in our letter of November last year. The council will continue to work with the school to support families through the closure process and assist with the transition to new schools.”