Why is there a problem with school places in Adur?

The problem with school places in Adur has to be looked at both from a demand perspective (how many places are needed?) and a capacity perspective (how many places do we have?)

How many places are needed?

The increasing demand for school places in Adur is a result of three factors – population growth, “Brighton drift” of families into the area, and new housing.

Population growth

The UK’s population is growing and a large factor in this growth has been the significant increase in the birth rate starting in the early part of the century (sometimes labelled as a “baby boom”). This has increased the primary school population, and this increase is now feeding into secondary schools.

Source: Office for National Statistcs

Whilst the birth rate is showing signs of falling again, this baby boom will continue to place pressure on school places for some time to come.

“Brighton drift”

Primary school heads in Adur have for many years been reporting that a large number of their parents had children whilst living outside the area (normally in Brighton and Hove) and then moved into Adur.

We undertook a survey of 136 FAST parents and found that nearly 40% had had at least one child whilst living outside Adur. There is little evidence of the reverse trend (families having children in Adur and then moving) to balance this movement. This means the local birth rate data used by West Sussex County Council (WSCC) to project is not an accurate reflection for demand.

Source: Future Adur Schools Team

As housing in Brighton & Hove continues to be significantly more expensive than in Adur, there is no sign of this trend abating. There are reports of nurseries and primary schools in Brighton & Hove scaling back their provision, and WSCC have acknowledged this trend in their latest planning school places document.

Comparing the early years (nursery / pre school) population between Adur and Brighton & Hove clearly shows a much higher growth rate in Adur (average 2.2% vs -0.1%). Assuming a similar birth rate, the most likely explanation for this difference is Brighton drift.

Source: Future Adur Schools Team


The Adur Local Plan proposes around 3,609 dwellings being built across the region between now and 2031. The amount of school place demand a dwelling creates depends on the type of housing, but a good “rule of thumb” is 1000 dwellings creates demand for 360 places across the primary and secondary age range (a full 1FE primary and a full 1FE secondary school).

This means housing growth alone will create demand for around 945 primary and 750 secondary places (1695 total). This equates to two primary schools with 2 or 3 form entry (FE) and one 4 or 5 FE secondary school.

The overall picture of demand

Projecting demand is difficult, but if we make the following assumptions:

  • all 4,500 dwellings in the local plan are delivered steadily
  • the growth rate shown by the early years data of between 1 and 2% continues

we can project that Adur’s school population will in all likelihood grow from 7,389 today to around 11,000 by 2030.

Source: Future Adur Schools Team. Data here.



Based on government guidelines, WSCC aim for schools to be 95% full, to give room for unexpected growth and transfers. Primary schools in Lancing have been over 95% capacity in four of the last six years.

Source: WSCC planning school places

In Shoreham the picture is even worse with primary schools being over 95% capacity in five of the last six years.

Source: WSCC planning school places

At secondary level the historic picture is healthier, but 2016 saw a big jump as the increased primary population feeds into secondary. The problems seen in secondary admissions this year are likely a result of a similar increase in 2017 numbers.

WSCC have addressed the issue at primary level by asking schools to take one off “bulge years” and permanently expanding Seaside, Sompting Village, St Nicholas and St Marys, Buckingham Park and Glebe Primary Schools. However these expansions, which became available in 2016, were not enough to deal with that years population, leading to the controversial Swiss Gardens bulge.

The sites of all the current primary schools in Shoreham that mean further permanent expansions are problemetic and so new schools are needed. There is now a bid in for a new primary academy in Shoreham, St Clements, although this has not yet been approved by the Department for Education (DfE). The plans for the New Monks Farm (Ikea) development also include a 1FE, expandable to 2FE, primary school. There is also an acknowledgement that the Shoreham Harbour development will require a 1FE primary school.

Shoreham Academy have agreed to increase their Published Admission Number (PAN) from 270 to 290 as a first step to increasing secondary capacity.

Is there enough capacity to meet the demand?


The below table shows the additional capacity being added through

  • Permanent expansions less the bulge classes that are already in those schools
  • Planned new schools
  • Increases in PAN

This shows that there will likely be a shortfall at primary level and clearly a major shortfall at secondary.

At primary level, if all three new schools are approved and actual pupil numbers are at the lower end of estimates, there would be enough capacity. But if we end up at the higher end of estimates there is a 3FE (630) shortfall if actual numbers end up at the higher end.

At secondary level, there is clearly a need for a mix of expansion and at least one new school to cater for the expected 5-9 FE (740 – 1,350) shortfall.

We at FAST will continue to campaign to ensure this shortfall is met in a strategic fashion.

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