The Commission considered a report updating on new school provision in Temple Quarter and Knowle, and on new specialist school places provided over the last year, and those planned for the next 2 years.
Summary of main points raised:
1. In response to questions from the Chair, it was clarified that parents applying for secondary school places in the new schools would receive two offers, one being a conditional offer for a ‘new’ school in anticipation that places would be available in the new schools’ respective temporary accommodation in September 2023, and the other being an offer at an alternative school. Conditional offers would be confirmed as soon as possible once there was definite confirmation that the temporary sites would be operational for September 2023; it was recognised that the situation would need to be managed carefully through the school admissions team as it inevitably presented a logistical challenge. Further detail on the process would be shared with members.
2. In response to a question from Cllr Weston, it was confirmed that the catchment areas for the two new schools had deliberately been set quite widely to try to minimise any disrupting effect for other schools, particularly in the central and eastern parts of the city. In time, it was anticipated that the increased sufficiency in secondary school places that would be realised through these two schools would have a ‘knock-on’ benefit in relieving pressure on admissions more widely across the city.
3. In response to questions from Cllr Townsend, it was confirmed that discussions would take place with Oasis about specialist SEND provision once the new schools were in place as physical buildings. Whilst noting this, Cllr Townsend expressed disappointment that neither of these two new secondary schools were catering for SEND inclusion through architectural design.
4. In response to a further question from Cllr Townsend, it was noted that discussions would start with schools / academy trusts in October about reviewing secondary school catchment areas and admissions. Whilst recognising that academies and voluntary aided schools set their own admissions policies and catchment areas, the key basis of the engagement would be to encourage recognition of the underlying principles of the Belonging Strategy and for this to be the focus of the discussions / review.
In connection with this point, the Chair reminded members that one of the key recommendations from the Commission’s working group on inclusion had been as follows:
‘There should be a city-wide review of admissions policies with a view to enabling a fairer and equitable admissions process. This should entail education settings and the Council working together to introduce criteria that recognise the need to serve local communities and enables better inclusion, including the local authority exploring how to encourage schools to implement criteria that provide an appropriate proportion of Pupil Premium student priority places in school applications when places are oversubscribed’.
The Chair expressed the view that the Council should particularly take on board and pursue this recommendation through the forthcoming discussion with schools and academy trusts.
The Commission RESOLVED:
To note the report and the above information.