School in line for a hefty rise in pupils

Plans to expand a Chichester school so it can cater for more pupils has been hailed as a positive step forward by school governors and staff.

A consultation has been launched on proposals to expand St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, which is being organised by the county council and the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

Vice-chairman of the school’s governing body, Father Kieron O’Brien, said: “It is early days, but these plans have the full backing of the governors and the staff.

“We see it as a positive development for the school and for the whole Catholic community.”

The plans are to increase the number of pupils in each year group from 30 to 45. St Joseph’s Primary School in Haywards Heath is also part of the improvement plans and the cost of the work for both projects will be around £2.5m.

In 2010 St Richard’s had to turn away 36 pupils because there was no room for them in the school. Last year 16 couldn’t be admitted.

St Richard’s said the school currently received admissions applications from an average of 25 per cent of the total population baptised in the local parishes.

If this trend continued the school was projected to continue to receive applications from Catholics in excess of the number of places (30 per year of age) available. A significant number of non-Catholics also exercised their right to express a preference for the school whom also have their applications denied due to the lack of places.

A county council statement said: “It is now proposed to expand the schools by 15 places per year of age each – creating a 420-place school at St Joseph’s and a 315-place school at St Richard’s.”

It is the intention for the building project to start in 2012 with a view to increasing the published admission number with effect from 2013.

Because of the nature of the expansion plans, a full statutory public consultation is required. It is a two-stage process – initially a public consultation takes place over four weeks of term-time and then the cabinet member for education and schools, Peter Griffiths, will decide whether to publish statutory notices in local newspapers and comments can be made over a further four weeks.

If he decides to proceed, the statutory notices are expected to be published in April 2012 and a final decision taken in May. A public meeting to discuss the proposed changes is being held on February 23 at St Richard’s RC Primary School, Cawley Road, at 7pm.

To make your views known, write to the school office or to Lyndsay Irvine, School Planning Officer, West Sussex County Council, First Floor, The Tannery, Chichester, PO19 3RJ.