Page last updated at 11:13 GMT, Monday, 24 May 2010 12:13 UK

Junior school takes on infants amid Brighton shortage

Primary school pupils (generic)
The council said it wanted to offer an immediate practical solution

A council decision to increase primary school places in an area of Brighton has been criticised by parents as a "last-minute half-hearted solution".

Benfield Junior School in Portslade will take two reception age classes this September under plans agreed by Brighton and Hove City Council.

The move is to tackle a shortfall of places in the west of the city.

One Hove parent, Anna Hopkins, said refurbishing empty rooms for infants on a junior school site was "deplorable".

She added: "I was truly flabbergasted when I received the offer of a place at a school that doesn't exist."

Another parent from Hove, Maria Skinner, said there were other viable options that could be considered.

"I am appalled that the authorities think that they can make such a poor offer of education to our children," she added.

Parents opposing plans want the classes to be created in existing infant schools, or a new school to be created in the autumn.

Councillor Vanessa Brown, who took the decision on the advice of council officers, said: "This is a difficult situation but we have moved as quickly as possible to offer parents an immediate practical solution."

'Exciting opportunity'

In a statement, Brighton council said Benfield Junior School was currently under capacity and the new classes would be housed in two empty rooms being refurbished over the summer.

The council said the city had a shortage of reception places in the west but spare places in the east, and the alternative to creating places at Benfield was to offer places in the east of the city to families in the west.

The timetable for allocating school places meant the exact nature of the shortfall was impossible to determine until two weeks ago, it added.

If the situation continued, the council would propose that Benfield became an all-through primary school from September 2011, it added.

A statement on Benfield's website said: "The local authority will be supporting us fully in developing the foundation stage of our school.

"As a school, we are very positive and excited about this new opportunity."

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