Housing developments are causing a phenomenal increase in the number of school places needed.
An extra 2,300 places are needed each year as a result of population growth in West Sussex.
West Sussex county councillor Peter Griffiths, who has responsibility for education and schools, said the county council’s wish would be to accommodate children in their local school, where this met the expressed preference of the parent, and a place was available.
“However, this is not always possible, especially in times of population growth, where the demand for places exceeds the current capacity of the school,” he said.
“To provide an additional class with the associated capital and resource costs would not be an effective use of public resources.
“In such circumstances, a place will be offered at the parent’s next preference or, if this is not possible, at the nearest alternative school with space available.”
This applied to all phases of education, but the challenges were greatest where the legislation around infant class size applied, restricting numbers to a maximum of 30 per class teacher.
Cllr Griffiths said the county council recognised the impact on families where a place was not available within a local village school.
Fluctuating numbers in year-group cohorts within villages, combined with the need to comply with the infant class size legislation, could make provision of local places for local children harder to achieve.
He added the county council would be looking to continue working with the Catholic and Church of England dioceses to plan as effectively as possible for the growth in demand.
“However, it must be recognised their priorities will differ from those of the county council and be primarily to those of the faith,” he said.
“By working with district and borough councils, we need to plan ahead. We must work together in order to plan places.”