Much debate on BBC London radio tonight
about Bolingbroke Academy's exclusive admissions policy.
You may recall from previous posts that Falconbrook primary has been excluded from the list of feeder schools despite being closer to the site than Wix primary school which is to be a feeder. Falconbrook has 62% of children receiving free school meals compared with 31% at Wix. At 17 mins on the tape, a Falconbrook parent is on saying she supported the campaign for a new school and wanted to be part of it. She campaigned for a lottery admissions system to give her children a better chance to get in because she knew that the very well off children would have priority due to the location of the site.
Later on, Jon de Maria is interviewed and he states again that Falconbrook is excluded because it already has Battersea Park School nearby - it is 1.3km away. He fails to mention that Wix children also have a school that is 1.2km away, Lambeth Academy. It is bizarre that the parents setting up the school, alongside ARK get to decide who gets more choice of schools and who has enough already!
This is the bigger issue we need to be aware of in terms of ensuring free schools nationally have fair admissions policies. ARK state that they consulted and received 159 responses with 118 agreeing with the admissions policy and (interestingly) many who opposed it being concerned that private primary schools were being excluded. Is this enough of a response to form a real view of the level of support? They also state that they "invited Falconbrook to meet them" which seems to suggest that they did not meet them. I assume they mean that they invited the Head of Falconbrook to meet them although that is not clear and, of course, we don't know why this meeting didn't take place but a lack such a meeting does not seem a reason to exclude all those parents/kids in itself.
1. What is an acceptable level of consultation? Should it be assumed that those who don't participate in such consultations are not interested in being part of the school and so can be excluded or is it possible that they weren't aware or didn't know the full picture?
2. What information should have to be provided underpinning a consultation - for example, comparisons of different admissions policies in terms of their impact on different primary schools and social groups?
3. Is it fair to expect people to do the analysis themselves to ensure things are fair, work that they might expect the council/provider to do - for example, when ARK published the feeder school policy, they didn't mention that Falconbrook is actually closer than Wix so how would people know without some significant digging?
These are all issues that I think will recur up and down the country as free schools pop up!