Head cries foul over school admission policy

Thursday 26th June 2008 10:00 pm
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THE headteacher of St Paul's Infant School, Tongham, has this week described the admission system to Waverley Abbey Junior School as "discriminatory" and called for a review into the feeder school process. Sue Brown, who discussed her disappointment with The Herald, explained how parents of children in Tongham are driving their children to schools further afield in order to ensure that they go on to Waverley Abbey instead of using St Paul's, which isn't on the feeder school list. Children who go to one of the named feeder schools - All Saints' School, Tilford, St Mary's School, Frensham, St John's School, Churt, and Puttenham School - are more or less guaranteed a place at Waverley Abbey, she said, meaning that they will then be more or less guaranteed a place at Weydon Secondary School. She described how the feeder process discriminates against certain groups of children and parents in areas that have good infant schools but won't use them as they won't provide the right passage through the local education system. "I am bitterly disappointed for the parents and children who live in the village of Tongham as this decision means that there is no equity for them in terms of admission into Waverley Abbey," she explained. "For a number of years now the feeder school system has meant that some parents drive their children past good quality local infant schools, in some cases, through the village of Tongham, adding to the traffic every morning, to gain a place at one of the named feeder schools. "I am certain that the governing body of Waverley Abbey have not set up their admissions policy to directly discriminate against certain groups of children and parents, and I fully understand that with rural communities there is a need for a policy which ensures children living there have access to school places and does not lead to the problems that we saw last year with the secondary school places. However, the situation needs to be carefully examined." Mrs Brown's comments came following a failed appeal by St Paul's into the admissions system of Waverley Abbey that resulted in a local adjudicator overruling St Paul's objection. David Taylor, the adjudicator for the case, called for more time to allow the new admission arrangements time to "bed down" and urged Waverley Abbey to monitor their impact. In his summing up Mr Taylor said that St Paul's case had been based on a careful and detailed reading of the code of practice but was difficult to establish because it focused on the perceived impact of arrangements on social cohesion. Mrs Brown remains undeterred by the decision saying the school will continue to monitor the position for Tongham families attending St Paul's and may make a further objection. "The governing body of Waverley Abbey have the data on home addresses and so I really hope that, as instructed, they will rigorously monitor the impact their policy has upon the families of a number of Farnham villages and make changes to ensure equity based upon home address and not just whether parents have the will and means to gain a place and make the daily drive to a named feeder infant school." David Jeffs, headteacher at Waverley Abbey School, explained that their admissions policy is designed to maintain stability and would be monitored. "Waverley Abbey is an extremely popular and oversubscribed school. "We are pleased that the adjudicator has recognised the delicate balance in setting an admissions policy within a rural area, especially for those villages to the south of Farnham. "In setting an admissions policy the governors wish to maintain stability for those children hoping to come to the school. We will continue to monitor our policy to ensure that groups are not unfairly disadvantaged."