Getting Your Child into a School

For any parent (which I am) sending your child to school for the first time is a big event, not only for a child, but also for the parent. Any parent wants the best for their child and picking the right school is important. Luckily, in Cornwall we have good schools, and there are no major issues in any of our schools.
This is reflected in the first choice placements for children in our schools. For secondary school out of a total of 5125 applications 99.4% got their first preference. There were five appeals, two were upheld, with three refused. This result has placed Cornwall Council second in the ranking of Local Authorities in England for placements. 
For primary schools there were 4955 applications which 92.8% were offered their first choice preference. However, there have been 219 appeals submitted for admission. Of the 111 appeals which have been held, 32 have been upheld and 79 refused. Again this is a good result, but slightly down on last years figures of 96%.
Now for my worry, Academies. I highlighted a few concerns I have with Academies in a previous blog, but a bigger concern I have is with admissions to these Academies. In an Academy school the school’s governing body is the admissions authority and sets the admissions policy and over-subscription criteria. Academies, as independent schools, must agree their admissions policies with the Secretary of State – Are alarm bells ringing yet?
As more and more schools become Academies it will be necessary to maintain close communication between them and the Local Authority in order to maintain a sufficient supply of school places and a fair and equitable admissions scheme.  A new draft Admissions Code has recently been published by the government and is currently being consulted on; Cornwall Council will submit its response during August.
This is all fine and dandy, but what happen if an Academy becomes more ‘selective’ in pupil admission? I am not saying this will happen, but it could very easily, especially as the Local Authority no longer has direct control. For some parents an Academy might be interpreted as better school (which is not the case) and the demand for a place could be high. Will there be a temptation of taking those from a more fortunate background? 
If the Local Authority suspects this is happening then is can raise their concern with the Sec of State, Mr Gove (at time of writing). The LA might also be able to call in an Ofsted inspection. Is this really good enough? I think you know the answer to that.
Maybe the Government has thought of  stopping Academies being more selective in their admissions by raising the amount paid in the pupil premium. Pupil premium is the extra money a school gets for every child that is entitled to a free school meal. Currently it is £400, but is set to rise. Could this be the incentive a school needs to take in children for less fortunate backgrounds? It could be a big influence as Academies are in charge of their own budgets just like a business would be.
You can see why I have grave reservations with Academies.  

9 comments

  • Gill Martin

    You have raised a valid point, but at least one self governed school in a London borough has gone to the opposite extreme and is openly giving preference to children from financially deprived backgrounds.

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Yes, the opposite can also happen. All I am asking for is for a fair admission policy than favours no particular group.

  • Anonymous

    Only 10% of intake into an Academy is permitted to be on a selective basis (unlike grammar or CTCs). So we shouldn't get carried away with thoughts that Academies are the thin end of the wedge leading to fully selective admissions.

    Moreover, in a county like Cornwall, admissions are largely based on proximity of home to the school. The travel distances involved mean that few Cornish students have a real choice between secondary schools.

  • Cllr Andrew Wallis

    Permitted yes, but how do you check? Especially when the Academy will be setting its own policy.

    There are concerns by senior education chiefs of there could be some sort of selective process with Academies. I know this because I have attended many meetings on this subject.

  • Anonymous

    I think you are assuming that the Council Council will make better decisions than the Academies (whether it be decisions about admissions, curriculum, finances). And that is a valid view of course.

    Personally however I am a believer in trusting industry professionals on the ground to do a better job than bureaucrats at County Hall. Academies are not fully autonomous. Rather they are highly regulated entities, all of them are regularly checked by OFSTED and all of them follow the core National Curriculum. Not all of them are successful of course and one or two have been closed. Nevertheless, the general policy of taking away a layer of bureaucracy (ie county councils) and trying to empower the trained professionals seems a good one to me.

  • Anonymous

    You mean "Senior Education Chiefs" who have a vested interest in bad mouthing academies and keeping as much under council control as possible…..
    In case you hadnt noticed life is selective…

  • Gill Martin

    I completely agree that there should be a fair admission policy that favours no particular group. However, re Anon, I do not agree that so called industry professionals would do a better job than the council. So called industry professionals run the railways and look at the state of some of them. Incidentally, while we are inventing posh names like acadamies, how about then re naming Cornwall council as 'Cornwall chamber of executives and ambassadors' located at Truro city architecturally pleasing hall.

  • Gill Martin

    I thought academy meant, society to advance arts or sciences, or alternatively, institution for training in a particular skill. Strange choice of name for a bog standard school. Don't know why they just don't call them, self budgeted schools or parental purse assisted schools. Then of course they would not sound so upper class and that wouldn't do would it.

  • Amanda

    Our primary school is undergoing this process. I raised this question myself. I asked if the children in our area, our estate, would be given places over outsiders, I was told yes. I hope this continues to be the case!

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