Venue: Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham, RG40 1BN
Contact: Luciane Bowker, Democratic Services Officer
Election of Chairman
To elect a Chairman of the Forum for the remainder of the 2016/17 academic year.
David Babb was elected Chairman of School Admissions Forum for the remainder of 2016/17 academic year.
Appointment of Vice Chairman
To appoint a Vice Chairman of the Forum for the remainder of the 2016/17 academic year.
Beth Rowland was appointed Vice-Chairman of School Admissions Forum for the remainder of 2016/17 academic year.
To receive any apologies for absence
Apologies for absence were submitted from Ben Godber, Edward Hunter and Nicci Morris.
Councillor Beth Rowland, Vice-Chairman asked for clarification on the membership status of members who had not attended the last three meetings of the Forum. Luciane Bowker, Senior Democratic Services Officer explained that the School Admissions Forum was a non-statutory consultative Forum, therefore it was up to the Forum to decide the rules around its own membership.
After a brief discussion it was agreed that Luciane would contact the relevant members and ask if they wished to continue taking part in the Forum. If necessary Luciane would attempt to recruit new members to the Forum.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 2 November 2016.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 2 November 2016 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive a report regarding the School Admission Arrangements 2018/19.
Piers Brunning, Service Manager Policy, Strategy and Partnerships presented the School Admissions Arrangements 2018/19 report which was set out in agenda papers 11-20. The various appendixes displayed in the agenda were also presented by Piers.
Piers explained that the proposed school admission arrangements for 2018/19 were currently under consultation, this consultation would run until 31 January 2017. Piers stated that the Council was responsible for setting the school admissions arrangements for community and voluntary controlled schools. Individual governing bodies were responsible for setting the admission arrangements for the nine voluntary aided schools and the nine academy/free schools in the Borough.
Piers informed the Forum that there were only four main changes from the previous arrangements. Piers expected that as and when a new School Admissions Code was issued more changes would be necessary.
Piers went through the proposed changes to the arrangements:
1) That the designated area of Loddon Primary School be extended to include that of Aldryngton Primary School.
2) That the designated area of Whiteknights Primary School be extended to include that of Radstock Primary School.
Piers explained that historically the Council had been unable to offer places at Radstock and Aldryngton Primary Schools to some children living in the designated areas of those schools. Amending the designated areas as proposed would give families living in the current Radstock and Aldryngton designated areas additional priority for another local school.
In addition, Piers stated that although there was a proposal for the expansion of Aldryngton Primary School, this would not be determined by the date at which the admissions arrangements must be determined. The arrangements for Radstock and Aldryngton schools would remain unchanged.
Piers stated that Whiteknights Primary School was more popular with Reading parents than with Wokingham parents. These changes would enable more parents to secure a place for their children in a local school.
The following comments were made in respect of these proposals:
· Members of the Forum generally thought that this was a good idea and stated that most schools in Wokingham were either good or outstanding;
· Members felt that the explanatory notes were very helpful;
· In response to a question Piers confirmed that local ward Members had been informed of the proposals;
· Councillor Rowland emphasized that it was important to publicise this change so that parents were aware of it when filling in their application forms and expressing their preferences;
· Councillor Dolinski was supportive of the changes as it extended parental choice.
3) That the community are invited to consider wording to make it more difficult for owner occupiers to game the admissions arrangements of popular schools by moving temporarily to their designated areas.
Piers explained that this was an attempt to address the issue of families ‘gaming’ the admissions process by moving temporarily to addresses close to popular schools intending to move back to their permanent homes outside the designated areas once their child had started school. Piers stated that this was not fraud (such as a claim to live at an address while ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
Any Other Business
Early Years Admissions
Piers asked the Forum for their views in relation to Early Years admissions. David Babb stated that it was usual for Local Authorities to set the criteria for its own maintained nurseries, but for the schools to administer the admission arrangements. Academies could set their own admission arrangements.
Patricia Cuss informed that Ambleside Centre had concerns over the current timeframe of their admissions arrangements. Ambleside felt disadvantaged in relation to other Early Years providers in that they were only able to offer places to parents in February. They expressed the intention to write their own admissions policy.
Patricia stated that it was becoming increasingly difficult to offer places in Hare Hatch, she believed that other providers were facing the same difficulties. She had not started considering the offer of 30 hours a week as there were uncertainties around the funding for the additional hours. Patricia stated that it was difficult to plan without knowing exactly what funding would be available.
Piers Brunning recognised that there issues around the funding arrangements for the extra 15 hours a week of childcare. Piers stated that he would undertake further investigations before formulating a proposal to be submitted to Executive.
David Babb clarified that the Early Years policy did not follow the same timescales as the primary and secondary schools policies, so there was time to investigate further.
Timing of entry to primary education
Sue Runciman raised the issue of loss of funding where parents take up a place at a school but decide to defer it until the child reaches compulsory school age.
Piers stated that Wokingham Borough Council’s policy had to adhere to the national guidelines; therefore it was not possible to change this parental right.
David Babb stated that this issue was raised with DfE and it was expected that the new code would address it.
Sue Runciman felt that the wording needed to made clearer for parents to understand that they would have to apply every year to keep their child’s name on the waiting list. Piers would look at strengthening the wording around waiting lists.
Celia Thatcher stated that the net capacity number for Grazeley CE Primary needed updating and Piers agreed to change it.
Piers explained that the net capacity for maintained schools had to be measured in a certain prescribed way and explained how the calculations were made.
Sue Runciman informed that she wished to propose changes to the admissions criteria for Shinfield St Mary’s Junior School to remove the church category. However, she had missed the deadline for this year’s consultation period. It was her intention to put forward the proposal for this amendment, with the support of the governors of the school.
David Babb stated that the Church of England Diocese recommended that schools should not have a church criterion in their school admissions policies. However, it was up to schools to decide. David informed that initially church schools had been set up to offer education to ... view the full minutes text for item 7.