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Consultation Fiasco for Wallace Fields Parents

March 11, 2012 6:00 PM

Unhappy faceSurrey County Council's annual Consultation on School Admissions was unusually controversial this year for parents wanting their children to attend Wallace Fields Junior School. Views were sought on the possible introduction of the Tiered Sibling criteria in 2013.

Now it seems that their over-whelming view is set to be ignored.

Parents of children currently attending Wallace Fields Infants had researched the situation likely to exist in 2013 for transfers to Wallace Fields Juniors. They discovered that all the places were likely to be allocated to children with a sibling currently at either the Juniors or the Infants. Even families living within a few yards of the school were likely to be forced to drive them to alternative schools.

Where a similar problem has arisen elsewhere in Surrey it has been solved by temporarily introducing Tiered Sibling criteria. Views were sought on three options and the results were revealed at a recent Cabinet meeting as follows:

  • no change to the current rule: 20%
  • change the rule starting 2013: 75%
  • phased change effective 2016: 5%

The phased change option would not affect admission to the Infants until 2015 and would not affect transfers from Infants to Juniors until 2016.

Surrey Schools Admissions Criteria

After special cases, Surrey's normal criteria are:

  • Siblings;
  • Non-siblings.

The Tiered Sibling criteria are:

  • Siblings for whom the school is the nearest;
  • Non-siblings for whom the school is the nearest;
  • Siblings for whom the school is not the nearest;
  • Non-siblings for whom the school is not the nearest.

Wallace Fields Juniors

Generally 60 children from the Infants plus 15 from Ewell Grove, a total of 75, compete for 68 places in the Juniors. In September 2012 there will be 105, because the Infants admitted an extra 30 in 2009.

The only reason that the Schools Adjudicator ruled against Tiered Sibling criteria for 2012 was because this option was not included in the 2012 consultation, which is why it was made an option in the 2013 consultation.

In an extraordinary decision, the Cabinet have recommended that the Council meeting on 20 March should adopt the phased change option, which had only 5% support and ignore the views of 95% of those who responded.

One reason given for the Cabinet's decision is that immediate introduction would create difficulties for families with an older child already at Wallace Fields who were unable to get a place there for a younger child. This reason is not mentioned for other schools where Tiered Sibling criteria are proposed.

It overlooks the difficulties created for families living close to the school if an older child is allocated to an alternative school. With no means of getting places for their younger children at that school either, they may well need to take them to schools in opposite directions.

Local residents feel that consideration should be given to the families being denied access to their local school, rather than to those who they feel have caused this problem.

Another reason given for the Cabinet's decision is that phased introduction is supported by the Headteachers of both schools. This is not so. The Headteacher and the Chairman of Governors at Wallace Fields Juniors, the school most affected, have told parents that they actually support immediate introduction - the option with 75% support.