11 March 2016

We want your views on secondary school admissions

A six-week programme of public engagement on possible ways of changing Brighton & Hove’s secondary school admissions system starts on Monday 14 March.

Feedback from this will be taken into account by Brighton & Hove City Council when it formulates concrete proposals later this year for changing the system as of September 2018. These will be the subject of formal consultation in the autumn.

Residents wishing to find out more and give their views can from of Monday 14 March.

A series of public information events is also being arranged. The following have already been scheduled:

  • Tuesday 15 March from 7-9pm at Moulsecoomb Primary
  • Wednesday 16 March from 12-2pm at the Brighthelm Centre and from 7-9pm at Dorothy Stringer
  • Thursday 17 March from 12-2pm at Whitehawk Library and from 6.30-8.30pm at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy
  • Saturday 19 March from 10am-noon at the Jubilee Library
  • Tuesday 22 March from 7-9pm at Whitehawk Library
  • Wednesday 23 March from 12-2pm at the Jubilee Library

The events will be first come, first served and places will be limited to the capacity of the venue. However further events will be held later in the consultation process should demand dictate.

Details of further events will appear at the venues chosen and on the school admissions section on the council website.

The need for change has been triggered by two key factors. One is rising demand for school places at secondary level, and the other is the University of Brighton’s proposal to create a new secondary free school in the eastern central area of the city.

The current system uses a combination of catchment areas and a range of published admissions priorities to determine how places are allocated.

However, as of September 2018 the projected rise in the number of secondary age pupils means that in some catchment areas there will be too many pupils for the places available.

The options under consideration considered relate to the city’s community secondary schools and academies. These are:

  • Blatchington Mill
  • Brighton Aldridge Community Academy
  • Dorothy Stringer
  • Hove Park
  • Longhill
  • Patcham High
  • Portslade Aldridge Community Academy, and
  • Varndean.

They also include the proposed University of Brighton secondary free school as the University has indicated that they intend to be part of the council’s admissions system.

As faith schools, Cardinal Newman and the King’s School both act as their own admissions authorities and set their own arrangements.

Schools, parents and other interested parties will be invited to give their views on what basic principles they want the council to take into account when it formulates concrete proposals for formal consultation in the autumn.

The council wants your views on three catchment area options. They are:

  • each school to have its own catchment area (Option A)
  • the city to have four catchment areas, three with two schools in and one with three schools in (Option B)
  • each secondary school being part of a catchment area with three schools in (Option C).

In addition, the engagement exercise is seeking residents’ views on whether to keep random allocation as the ‘tie-break’ for oversubscribed schools, or to use home to school distance instead.

In order to try and make the system as fair as possible there is also a proposal to amend the current oversubscription criteria to give children eligible for free school meals a higher priority.

The various options aim to ensure that as many as possible of a range of criteria are met. These criteria are that any proposed new catchment areas should look to:

  • Offer more choice to parents
  • Allow children to move to a secondary school with their school friends
  • Minimise pupil journeys to school
  • Raise the attainment of children in the most deprived circumstances
  • Ensure all the city’s schools are successful and viable
  • Give each school a social mix of pupils from different backgrounds
  • Allow parents to know how likely they are to get a place at a school based on where they live.

These options have been put together by a working party of headteachers, governors and councillors from all parties.

They take into account research done by the University of Brighton into what parents and pupils think of the current system.

Residents have until Sunday 24 April to give their views.

The deputy chair of the children, young people and skills committee and chair of the council’s cross party school organisation working group is Councillor Daniel Chapman. He said:

“Over the next few weeks we want to get people’s views on the general principles of how they think secondary school catchment areas should work in future.

“The three options are not intended to be a street-by-street guide. They are suggestions to get people thinking about what sort of catchment area system they would prefer.

“We also want to see whether we can make more schools more accessible to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The feedback we get from this engagement exercise will help us draw up concrete proposals on a street-by-street basis that will be subject of a formal consultation process in the autumn.

“No admissions system will please all parents, but our aim above all is to arrive at a new system that is as fair as possible to as many parents and children on a city-wide basis.”

Department for Education rules state that any decisions on changing the admissions system as of September 2018 need to be made by 28 February 2017.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Since its introduction in 2008 the schools in each catchment area have offered places to all students applying for their catchment area school – or schools in the city’s two dual catchment areas – who couldn’t be offered a higher preference.

The (national) Office of the School Adjudicator has looked in detail at our current catchment area based system and ruled that it is both fair and transparent. By law no admissions system can use the perceived qualities of different schools as a factor in how school places are allocated.

The council’s methods for secondary pupil numbers forecasting was recently the subject of an independent review. This found that the most recent estimates were more than 98% accurate. With the University of Brighton free school proposal now approved by the government it is anticipated that there will be sufficient places available city-wide to accommodate the rising number of secondary aged pupils up to 2026.