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| December 14, 2018

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Council To Re-Consider School Admissions Policies Following Consultation Period

Council To Re-Consider School Admissions Policies Following Consultation Period
Andrew O'Connor

School admission arrangements for September 2019 will be considered by Brighton & Hove City Council’s children, young people and skills committee on Monday 15 January following a six-week consultation held late last year.

Councillors will consider a report on the responses to the consultation carried out during October and November on proposals for changes at both primary and secondary level for September 2019.

After considering the responses to the consultation from residents, teachers and governors it is recommended that proposed reductions in admissions numbers should not go ahead for Hertford Infant and Benfield Primary schools.

It is recommended that proposed changes to reduce admission numbers by 30 at West Hove Infant (Connaught Road site), Moulsecoomb Primary and Coombe Road Primary schools should go ahead.

With regards to secondary school catchment areas the recommendation is to make no changes.

Since the agreement to consult on changes to catchment areas last September, the cross party group that oversees admission arrangements has considered the feedback provided through the consultation as well as new information becoming available and new offers being made by the city’s secondary schools.

The recommendation was largely informed by the following:

  • A summary of the responses to the consultation, which showed a majority of respondents to be against the proposed changes to catchment areas
  • New annual pupil number projections based on data gathered in October 2017 point to a smaller rise in pupil numbers city-wide over the next few years than was indicated by the projections from October 2016 that informed the recent consultation.
  • Blatchington Mill is permanently increasing its intake by one form of entry as of September 2018
  • Varndean has confirmed to the council that it wishes to permanently increase its admissions numbers by an extra 30 pupils per year
  • Patcham High has confirmed to the council that it wishes to permanently increase its admissions numbers by an extra 10 pupils per year as of September 2019
  • Dorothy Stringer has confirmed to the council that it is willing to provide 30 additional places in September 2019 and 2020 on a temporary basis

The report follows the recommendation of the working group that the additional places outlined at Dorothy Stringer and Patcham should be agreed, and that the current catchment areas should remain unchanged in 2019.

The request from Varndean for a permanent increase in its admissions numbers was made after the most recent meeting of the working group. They had previously expressed a willingness to expand on a temporary basis. The recommendation in the report is to agree the temporary expansion. The request for a permanent expansion will be considered separately.

The chair of the children, young people and skills committee, Councillor Dan Chapman, said: “I’d like to thank the hundreds of residents, parents, teachers and governors who took part in the consultation, which has helped the cross-party group make its recommendations.

“The position we are in now with secondary school admissions has changed from when we agreed the consultation in September 2017.

“Since mid-September, there is new information with pupil projections and Blatchington Mill has permanently expanded by one form of entry. Patcham High and Varndean plan to permanently expand as well. Dorothy Stringer has indicated its willingness to take extra pupils on a temporary basis.

“In many ways the situation is better now than three months ago, but it’s not perfect. I welcome the willingness of Dorothy Stringer and Varndean to take extra pupils, but I am also aware that even with the additional places they won’t be able to ‘catch’ all the pupils in their area.

“With all this in mind, in the circumstance we are now facing, I believe that the benefits of leaving the catchment areas as they are outweigh the possible benefits of the changes that were proposed.

“It is clear that these changes and proposals would have a very significant impact on the planned University of Brighton free school at the Brighton General Hospital site.

“We have a duty to take a city-wide view on school admissions.

“There are a number of newly developed factors we must now consider. These are the reduction in the number of children entering our secondary schools over the next few years as shown in the new school census data, the increase in pupil admissions numbers at Blatchington Mill, and the proposed increases at three of our other oversubscribed schools.

“Taking these changes in circumstances into consideration our administration believes that the new free school, as proposed in 2015, is no longer in the best interests of the city as a whole.

“We have therefore advised the University of Brighton that we have withdrawn the in-principle support for the new school.

“Our withdrawal of support is a recognition of the changed circumstances in the city, and not in any way a reflection on the excellent educational services the University of Brighton and its academies trust provides.

“I would like to thank the University of Brighton for stepping in to make the offer to sponsor the new school, and for all the work they have done with us on this project.”

The chair of the Brighton & Hove Secondary Headteachers Group is Dorothy Stringer head Richard Bradford. He said:

“We welcome the council’s willingness to take on board the feedback we have given them about school places, and their flexibility in responding to a rapidly changing situation.

“We would also like to acknowledge the sensitivity and partnership spirit with which the University of Brighton has worked on their free school project, and to thank them for all their work on this.

“However, given the circumstances the city now faces we agree with the view that there is no longer a need for a new secondary school in the city.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the council to deliver new school places, and to ensuring the long-term sustainability of all the city’s secondary schools.”

More information about pupil projections

The future pupil number projections that informed the recent consultation were based on data gathered from schools in October 2016. This is recognised as being the most reliable time of year to collect secondary school data as it allows time for pupil numbers to settle following the ‘churn’ that happens at the beginning of the school year in September, but before other fluctuations such as families leaving the city during the academic year.

It was also based on GP registration data, which is provided annually in November. The raw data from both these sources needs a considerable amount of analysis in order to arrive at the projections.

It was therefore not possible to have the new projections, based on data from October 2017, available for the statutory consultation that took place in October and November 2017.

A commitment to take the new projections based on the October 2017 data into account was made during the consultation.

Link to the Children, Young People and Skills Committee

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