The Department for Education (DfE) has informed West Sussex County Council that it has withdrawn the primary free school at Wickhurst Green from its Free School Capital Programme.
The proposed new primary school at Wickhurst Green will not be built, as there will be sufficient places available at existing, high-performing schools in the Horsham area able to meet future demand.
In a letter to the Council, the DfE indicated that following a review, it does not consider there to be sufficient demand for places to justify delivering the new 420-place school as part of the Wickhurst Green development, south of Broadbridge Heath.
Currently there is close to 10% surplus capacity across primary schools in Horsham. In 2018, the County Council expanded the nearby Shelley Primary School to 420 places to cater for recent pupil growth in the area. Bohunt Horsham is opening a 420-place primary school in north Horsham in September 2024 which will add further capacity and choice. In addition, national birth rates are currently falling and this is a trend which is expected to continue, reducing demand for primary school places over the next few years.
West Sussex County Council’s School Place Planning Team has assessed the future pupil projections and is confident that, despite increased housing, there are no shortage of primary school places in Horsham. With central funding now unavailable, the Council has decided not to seek the transfer of the land from the developer for a new school.
There are 11 high-performing primary schools within the local Horsham area so we are confident that young people in Wickhurst will have access to an excellent education at one of these schools.
Background for media
- Land for a school site at Wickhurst Green had been allocated in 2011 as part of a Section 106 developer agreement. Discussions over several years between the DfE, Regional Schools Commissioners Office, West Sussex County Council and Horsham District Council, were unable to resolve several issues around readying the land for transfer to WSCC.
- While these discussions continued, the growth in pupil numbers was catered for initially by using surplus space at nearby Shelley Primary School. In 2016, temporary classrooms were added to Shelley to take additional pupils, and in 2018 this expansion was made permanent with a £2.15m investment to enhance facilities at the 420-pupil school.
- In 2017, the DfE agreed to open a Primary Free School on the Wickhurst Green site and the Secretary of State identified the Glynn Learning Foundation as the free school sponsor. However, the DfE have now reviewed their position and do not consider there to be sufficient demand for places over and above the expanded Shelley Primary School to justify delivering the new 420 place school.
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