Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham, RG40 1BN
Contact: Luciane Bowker Democratic Services Officer
To receive any apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was submitted from Celia Thatcher, Grazeley CE Aided Primary School representative.
Appointment of Vice-Chairman
To appoint a Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the 2015/16 academic year.
Beth Rowland was appointed Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the 2015/2016 academic year.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 27 January 2016.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 27 January 2016 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
The Forum was informed that a training session had not been organised for this meeting because the new School Admissions Code had not yet been released. Also, the Fair Access Protocol was in the process of being revised, once this was ready it would be brought to the Forum for discussion.
A training session would be organised in due course once the new code was adopted.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive and consider the annual report to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.
Piers Brunning, Service Manager Policy, Strategy and Partnerships invited the members of the Forum to engage in a discussion of the main items of the Local Authority Report to the Schools Adjudicator. A template of the report was set out in Agenda pages 15-28.
Piers went through the questions in the template and during the discussion of the report the following points were made:
· The report was being completed and would be ready for submission by the end of June;
· The Forum agreed that there were no concerns relating to the admission arrangements for Looked After Children (LAC) or previously LAC;
· There were also no concerns over the admissions of children with disabilities. Piers informed that the Local Authority was in the process of setting up two new specialist units, one in Emmbrook for ear impairment and one in St Crispins for Autistic Spectrum Disorder;
· The Headteachers present described the increasing difficulty in obtaining Education Health Care Plans (EHCP) for children, even when they believed their needs were very severe. This was disappointing as it took a long time for staff to prepare the cases. A Headteacher reported that it was more cost effective to use the school’s own budget to meet the child’s needs then go through the process of applying for a statement, which was a lengthy process with no guarantee of success;
· The Forum noted that it was also difficult to secure funding for children who were just below the level to secure an EHCP;
· Members expressed concern that going forward, schools would not be able to meet the needs of children within the current arrangements of reduced funding for Special Educational Needs;
· Members agreed that the co-ordination of admissions had worked well, the Local Authority provided this service to most schools in the Borough;
· David Babb stated that the government was aware of the issue of multiple offers (where schools co-ordinated their own admissions). This was not a problem in Wokingham at the moment because Wokingham co-ordinated the admissions process for most schools in the Borough. David also stated that it was much easier for parents to apply just once rather than having to apply to several different schools;
· Members noted that there was potential for children to be out of school for longer if the co-ordination arrangements weren’t managed by the Local Authority;
· David Babb knew of other authorities that had stopped co-ordinating the admissions for schools who were now going back to being the central point of co-ordination because this was a better system;
· It was disappointing to note that some parents were still reluctant to put down more than one preference in their applications, particularly in the Earley area. It would be helpful if parents in the Earley area considered putting Earley St Peters as one of their preferences to avoid being diverted to schools much further away;
· Piers reported that there was less pressure for secondary school places this year. This was due to a number of factors, for example the opening ... view the full minutes text for item 22.
To receive and consider a report containing an update on 2016/17 transfer groups, pressure in other year groups and planned activity.
The Forum received the Allocation of Places for 2016/17 Academic Year report which was set out on Agenda pages 29-49.
Piers stated that the main area of concern was Key Stage 1as there was a very small number of surplus places in the Borough. New places had been created but more places were needed.
This year a lot of parents were unable to secure a school place at Lambs Lane Primary School. Piers believed this was the result of long term development now bringing in new families into the area.
A new school was being created in Shinfield in the Reish Green site; this would create 30 school places. Members asked what name was going to be given to this new school and suggested it should not include ‘Shinfield’ so not to cause confusion with Shinfield St Mary’s CE Junior School and Shinfield Infant & Nursery School. Piers informed that it was Floreat Trust who was responsible for this new school and they could choose their own name.
Beth Rowland stated that Emmbrook School was disappointed that the admissions prediction relating to their new intake in September was not very accurate. They had in fact received a lower number of applications than the number anticipated by the LA. This had implications in their budget planning.
David Babb explained that it was very difficult to predict admission numbers as there were too many variables.
Piers reported that there were sufficient surplus secondary school places this year. The opening of the new secondary school, Bohunt had created additional school places. Although there was surplus secondary school capacity this year, it was believed these places were needed for the next few years and the LA had to be prepared for it.
Edward Hunter pointed out that Bohunt only needed to create 75 places, however Emmbrook was having to cut back on already established numbers.
It was noted that Emmbrook was going to have a new Headteacher, this created uncertainty for parents. It would take a few years for the new Headteacher to build up trust with parents. This would affect Emmbrook’s admission numbers.
Piers stated that the admissions numbers varied year on year.
RESOLVED That the report be noted.
Current School Admissions Arrangements
The Forum to receive an update on the current school admissions arrangements.
Piers reported that it was possible that Loddon Primary’s designated area may need to be changed, but this was not certain yet.
David Babb informed that he believed that the new Admissions Code would address two issues in particular:
· In-year co-ordination schemes and
· Summer born children admission
The Forum was in agreement that there were no concerns for the admission arrangements for 2018/19, but there could be many changes in 2019/20.
RESOLVED That the report be noted.
Dates of Future Meetings
To note the dates of the planned future meetings:
· 2 November 2016
· 11 January 2017
The dates for planned future meetings of the Forum up to 2016 be noted as follows:
· 2 November 2016 – nearer the time the Officers would liaise with the Chairman to decide if there was enough business to conduct this meeting.
· 11 January 2017