THURROCK Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, says he welcomes the decision of the Schools Adjudicator over admission proposals by one of the borough’s new academies.
Woodside Academy in Grangewood Avenue, Little Thurrock, had wanted to change its admission criteria to give precedence to children in its nursery classes.
Cllr Kent said: “The council objected because this could prevent children who live closer to the school, but who couldn’t attend nursery, getting into the school’s reception class.
“Thurrock Council has to look at the opportunities for all children in the borough and it has to ensure all schools – whatever their type, academy, church or other – are held accountable.
“But I don’t want this to be seen as a ‘council knocks academy’ story as some will probably claim. I want to work closely with our schools to give each and every child the best possible chance – and the adjudicator agrees with us in this case.”
Full details of the adjudication are below, but Cllr Kent said: “I’d like to pick out some phrases from the adjudication. She says that while the proposals offer ‘advantage to those children, it disadvantages those whose parents decide not to, or cannot, make use of the nursery provision, or need different provision, or [who] do not gain a place.’
“She also writes: ‘The school has sought to make this link with the nursery classes by naming them as a feeder school. It has offered no evidence to show how they may be lawfully designated as a school”.
Cllr Kent also highlighted the adjudicator’s statement that “it is unfair to determine admissions into the school where the admissions arrangements are regulated by statute, largely by reference to attendance at the nursery class where admission arrangements are not regulated”.
He said: “Like the adjudicator, I do not think the school proposed this scheme for anything other than educational reasons, but the council’s duty is to the wider community, not a single school.
“Some people will claim we did this for political, anti-academy reasons, but nothing could be further from the truth.”
The principal of the Woodside Academy, Ed Caines said: “We changed our admissions arrangements to give some priority to our own nursery children after numerous appeals every year when children failed to get reception places.
“It is not easy explaining to three years olds why they are not continuing at the school with their friends. Our legal advice was that there was nothing in the admission code to say that a school could not do this, something which, in spite of her decision, the adjudicator admits.
“This was a grey area in law and we welcome the clarity this judgement brought. We have found another solution this year by taking 90 rather than 60 children and intend to do the same in the future.
“This means all our nursery children, plus many others whose parents chose Woodside, have places.