Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Luciane Bowker Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
Appointment of Vice-Chairman
To appoint a Vice-Chairman for the remainder of the 2017/18 academic year.
Sue Runciman, Shinfield St Mary’s Junior School Headteacher was appointed Vice-chairman of School Admissions Forum for the remainder of 2017/18 academic year.
In the absence of the Chairman Sue Runciman chaired the meeting.
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from David Babb, Louisa Gurney and Councillors Prue Bray and Graham Howe.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 29 January 2018.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 29 January 2018 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to the amendment below and signed by the Chairman.
That the spelling of the Bohunt School Headteacher be corrected to read Ben Godber.
Sue Runciman stated that she had asked children’s centres to be available to help parents that needed assistance with online applications, and that they had agreed to do so.
Sue Runciman suggested that the term ‘pack’ should not be used in relation to online applications as this could be confusing to parents.
Ben Godber asked for clarification in respect to bullet point nine on page seven of the agenda which stated that the Local Authority had been asked to review the admission arrangements for Bohunt School in relation to the sibling criteria.
Piers Brunning, Strategic Commissioning (People and Place) Senior Specialist agreed to look into it and report back.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
To receive and consider the School Admissions 2018 report.
The Forum considered the report which was set out in agenda pages 11-66.
Piers Brunning informed that the number of applications for primary school places had declined markedly (-3%) compared to 2017/18. This reflected the reduction in the number of children born to Wokingham resident mothers in the year 2013/14 feeding into the 2018 Reception cohort compared to earlier years. This was despite very high levels of house building in the borough bringing additional children in.
Piers Brunning stated that due to this decline every school cluster had capacity, something that had not been seen for some years. Overall 10% of Reception places were unfilled. This had helped ensure that a high proportion of first preferences were achieved and fewer children required home to school transport. This was positive for parents but challenging for the schools with lower numbers.
Piers Brunning explained that this decline in primary numbers was a national phenomenon and not exclusive to Wokingham.
Piers explained that the only area where surplus figures did not reach double figures was Woodley (9 surplus places). Woodley was an area that had seen high levels of housebuilding in recent years and current roll projections indicated further work may be required in this area.
Piers informed that secondary numbers had risen significantly (3% or 49 offers), this led to a 7% surplus capacity overall.
Piers stated that while both north and south planning areas had surplus capacity, in the north this was only 1.5% of capacity. However, there were significant levels of admissions of students from Reading from outside the cross-board designated areas, so this did not necessarily indicate that additional capacity was required in the near future. The southern area had significantly more surplus levels.
Piers pointed out that it was likely that Wokingham Borough would have had insufficient places on offer day without Bohunt School. The new school had brought in some students from outside the borough and Wokingham Borough resident students who would otherwise have attended out of borough schools, but it is unlikely the combined effect would have been 81 fewer applications (the deficit achieved by subtracting the number of allocations on offer day from the current total of Year 7 places, less Bohunt’s 240 places).
Piers Brunning informed that the most affected secondary schools with unfilled places were Forest and Emmbrook.
During discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· It was expected that demand for primary school places would increase, especially in view of the high number of new house builds;
· Wokingham was a place that tended to attract young families.
RESOLVED That the report be noted.
Draft Report to the Schools Adjudicator 2018
The Forum considered the Draft Report to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) which was set out in agenda pages 17-32.
Piers Brunning stated that the Council was required to submit a report to the Schools Adjudicator every year by 30 June. The report contained in the agenda was based on a template issued by the OSA. The report enabled the OSA to get a snapshot view of the functioning of the admissions system and of the view of local authorities on what school admissions perceived to be key issues.
Piers Brunning invited the Forum to consider the current drafting, propose changes and contribute their views to areas where drafting had yet to commence.
Piers Brunning stated that some of the themes were repeats from previous years, but there seemed to be a particular interest this year in relation to Looked After Children (LAC) and previously LAC and children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and disabilities.
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· Sue Runciman was surprised with the definition of ‘in-year’ in the bottom of page 21. Piers Brunning agreed to question it with the OSA;
· Sue Runciman stated that she would be interested to read the final report and see the examples of good and bad practice;
· Piers Brunning stated that the report would be available online;
· Members of the Forum did not agree with the answers given to the questions in relation to the provision of education to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). Members unanimously agreed that there were insufficient specialist places in the borough for children with disabilities;
· Amanda Woodfin stated that she had received 6 children in Year 7 with significant SEN, for whom there were no Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP), who in her opinion should have had EHCPs, it was difficult to support these children. In response to a question Amanda stated that the primary settings where these children came from (which was cross border between Reading and Wokingham) were aware of their needs but perhaps did not have the resources to apply for an EHCP, especially in view of the fact that it was now very difficult to meet the threshold for obtaining an EHCP;
· Patricia Cuss stated that SEN children were often identified at Early Years settings, but it was a struggle to get the right level of support. In her opinion even when funding was granted, this was so minimal that it was not worth applying for;
· Sue Runciman stated that it was not cost effective for a primary schools to send a member of staff to a number of meetings knowing that it was very unlikely that they would obtain the support that was needed (unless the needs were severe), the threshold for getting an EHCP was very high and this was discouraging primary schools from applying;
· Patricia Cuss stated that SEN children were just about managed at Early Years stage because the staff levels at Early Years was higher, ... view the full minutes text for item 14.
Wokingham Borough Draft Primary Strategy 2018 to 2028
The Forum considered the Draft Primary Strategy report which was set out in agenda pages 33-66.
Piers Brunning informed that the consultation would be open online to primaries from 7 June 2018. The online version was slightly different from the report contained in the agenda.
Piers Brunning informed that this was a 10 year plan, taking into account the large scale development plans within the borough. Following the national programme of housing development, the Council had taken a decision to invest in large scale developments instead of a high number of smaller scale developments. The thought process behind it was that it was more effective to create the necessary infrastructure such as roads, schools and associated community facilities to a few large sites rather than having to do it to many small sites.
Piers Brunning stated that as part of the development plan two new primary schools had already been built: Floreat Montague Park (which had opened in 2016) and Shinfield West (due to open in September 2019). Two other primary schools were on course to open in 2020, one in the Matthews Green site and the other in the Arborfield site.
Piers Brunning stated that the impact of new homes was critical to the viability of new schools and neither the number of new homes nor the number of children who will live in them could be known when the decision to let building contracts was given. Therefore, the Council must have plans both for managing schools that are built too early and if additional capacity is required.
In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that the 10 year plan was based on the best evidence and guidance available, however it was expected that this would fluctuate within a band. Around two thirds of the number of houses that are planned to be built in the borough are to meet the additional housing needs that come of the household projection (from the Office of National Statistics) based on the population projection. The population projection for primary school children is flat, but despite that the number of new houses will increase, two thirds of those houses are expected to maintain the number of children in the borough
Piers explained that the projections took into account the life cycle of a household, which was considering when people tended to have children and when people tended to move out to downsize.
Piers Brunning stated that another consideration was the calculation based on affordability of houses for people working in Wokingham.
In response to a question Piers Brunning stated that birth data was used for more immediate plans, and the Office for National Statistics data were used to build the longer term plans. GPs data was part of the information received from the Office for National Statistics.
Fiona Hayward noted that some of the new houses were likely to be occupied by families splitting up who needed an additional house.
Piers Brunning stated that there was a degree of wariness in any ... view the full minutes text for item 15.
Dates of Future Meetings
To note the dates of the planned future meetings:
· 12 November 2018
· 30 January 2019
The dates for planned future meetings of the Forum to be noted:
· 12 November 2018
· 30 January 2019
Members asked to change the date of the meeting on Monday 12 November 2018 to Wednesday 14 November 2018. Subsequently Luciane Bowker confirmed the change of date.