New school admissions proposals could improve parental choice in Warwickshire

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Changes proposed to Warwickshire’s current primary school

admissions process will increase parental choice and

benefit families hoping to place siblings at the same

school.

As is the case in many local authority areas, Warwickshire

schools have traditionally used priority areas to help

determine which children should be admitted to certain

schools each year. Under this system, first allocation is

given to those families living within each school’s

priority area (or catchment boundary) over those living

elsewhere, even if they already have a sibling at the

school.

Warwickshire County Council will shortly begin a

consultation with schools and communities proposing changes

to the admissions policy by creating more flexible priority

areas for certain parts of the county where the demand for

school places is high and where issues with sibling

placements have been identified.

The consultation will put forward the creation of ‘Super

Priority Areas’ in larger towns where there are more than

five schools in a two-mile radius. These newly defined

zones would have wider boundaries for school admission

consideration.

This would mean families living within super priority areas

retain a priority for admission to the area’s schools over

those living elsewhere; however, all children living in

each area would have equal priority for admission to any of

the schools operating this system. For oversubscribed

schools decisions will be made based on distance from home

to school but siblings would take priority.

Councillor Heather Timms, Portfolio Holder for Children and

Schools, said:

“We always try to accommodate brothers and sisters in the

same school but the current admissions criteria sometimes

means this isn’t the case. We believe our proposals to

introduce super priority areas offer a solution to this

problem and allow us to continue to operate an admissions

policy which is fair to all.

“A number of other authorities have adopted similar

arrangements and evidence shows that the issue of siblings

being placed at different schools has been addressed and

that ultimately parental choice is improved.

“Families living in the county’s larger towns should not be

disadvantaged by this as there should be alternative

placements within a reasonable distance.”

The proposals were put forward following review of

admissions for reception places in September 2013. The

review identified that super output areas would benefit

families applying for places at schools in Bedworth,

Leamington Spa, Nuneaton, Rugby, Stratford-upon-Avon and

Warwick.

Warwickshire County Council will retain current

arrangements for those smaller communities where changes

could see children having to travel long distances to find

a school place.

The council will also work with schools outside of local

authority control such as academies to ensure that

Warwickshire continues to operate an admissions system that

works in local communities.

Decisions will be subject to the outcomes of consultation

and negotiation with individual schools and responsible

bodies in line with the statutory consultation process. The

consultation is expected to begin later this month and

schools, families and local communities will be invited to

share their views. The earliest date for any changes to

policy to take effect will be for admissions in September

2015.