Southwater Survey on Local Education

I am interested in hearing your views and those of the Southwater community more widely on a matter which I know is of keen local interest to the village.

I attended a meeting at Southwater Parish Council’s offices at Beeson House on 4th March at which parents raised their concerns about secondary school allocations; including those that had been allocated Burgess Hill Academy. This was the start of intense engagement with West Sussex County Council, Headteachers, parents and schools.

Although length of journey time was not the only issue raised, I am delighted that every pupil of whom I was made aware who was not initially allocated a Horsham or Billingshurst school was ultimately accepted into one or other.

The primary reason for the issue was the “bulge” in pupil numbers. This is happening across the country, which means for a short period we have more pupils of secondary school age than in the past.  (This will unwind in coming years and there are already fewer children in the lower years at primary schools across Horsham than recently.)

Although it is a County Council responsibility to ensure there is appropriate schooling for all children, I am determined that local children should be able to be educated locally which is why I was so keen to secure Bohunt Horsham for our area. I am, similarly, actively engaged with the County Council and others to ensure they are thinking through all the ramifications of school allocations for the September 2024 school year. 

Even with the increase in pupil numbers in the short term, there are sufficient school places in the Horsham area to accommodate local children including those in the village. This does, however, depend on parental choice and schools have been impacted by recent changes; including Forest School very successfully moving from single sex to co-ed. 

In the past Southwater residents when asked for their preference voted, albeit narrowly, against having a new secondary school built in the village. I have been told previously that this was because there was a sense that, whilst it was great for younger pupils to be educated in the village, parents wanted their older children to be educated in Horsham town itself. I also understand that there was a fear that a new secondary school in the village would presage a further increase in local house building. 

I would greatly appreciate your views and would be grateful if you would fill out my survey on the matter.  I would stress that this is in no way a decisive ballot, these issues are not determined by your MP and have wider implications beyond the village of Southwater. I should also be clear that decisions on the allocation of development sites for local house building are determined by Horsham District Council. However, an indication of views may be helpful as part of the debate and I will share the anonymised results received.