Still time for parents to have their say on sibling priority proposal

Published: Wednesday 22nd October 14

Parents who have a view on a proposed change to school admission rules in Wandsworth still have time to make sure their voices are heard.

The council’s consultation on a proposal to update the admissions process will end in just over a week on Friday, October 31.

The proposal is designed to make it easier for children to attend their local neighbourhood community school.

Under the current system preference is given to siblings of existing pupils when a school is oversubscribed – regardless of where they live. This can mean that children who live much closer are denied a place at their nearest local primary school.

The council’s proposal to make the system fairer is that from the start of the 2016/7 academic year onwards sibling priority should only apply to children who live within 800 metres of the school. Siblings residing further away would no longer have priority over children living closer.

Education spokesman Cllr Kathy Tracey said: “We believe that this change would make the schools admissions process much fairer and give greater priority to children who live closest to schools. But it’s really important that local parents tell us what they think.

“Many tell us they really worry that their children will not be able to attend their nearest local primary school because so many of the places are automatically allocated to the siblings of children already there.

“And in quite a significant number of cases the families of these siblings no longer live anywhere near the school. Some will have moved out of the area after their eldest child secured a place because they know that younger brothers or sisters will have priority over children who live much closer.

“There have been cases recently where schools have had to offer almost all their places to siblings and this means that other local children are missing out.

“We don’t think this is fair which is why we are proposing a solution that we believe strikes a better balance and makes it fairer for those parents and children who live closer to schools.” 

Data from the 2014 round of admissions show that of 712 children who were offered a place at a community school on the basis of sibling priority, 174 lived more than 800 metres away from the school

The council believe the proposed change would strike a fairer balance as the majority of families with siblings would not be affected by the change.  

If, after consultation, the proposal is approved, the council will urge church schools and other state schools responsible for their own admissions, like academies and foundation schools, to consider similar changes.

To find out more about the proposal and to take part in the consultation parents can visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/admissionsconsultation.

As part of wider plans to make the admission system fairer and ensure it better meets the needs of local parents, the council is also tightening up the rules that allow the use of temporary addresses to obtain a school place. There has been growing evidence that, despite the council’s rigorous checks on where people live, some are using this tactic to secure a place ahead of families who have lived in an area for a long time.

The address used on an application will have to be the family’s normal permanent address. Parents will not be able to move into a property on a temporary basis to increase their chances of gaining a school place. Nor will they be able to use a relative’s, a childminder’s or a business address.

If the family own a property but make their application from a different address, the council will assume that the second address is a temporary one. Similarly if a family is renting somewhere because their main home is being renovated, then the latter will be considered their permanent address. And if the family own more than one property additional checks will be carried out to determine which one is actually their main home.

Temporary addresses will only be considered if the applicants are able to prove they have sold or permanently moved out of their normal address.

There is huge demand for primary school places in Wandsworth, partly due to an increased birth rate, but also because of sustained high standards and continuous improvements in teaching and learning at local schools.

To meet this rising demand the council has taken a number of steps to provide more classroom places for four and five-year-olds.

Over the past four years more than 28 additional reception classes have opened in primaries across the borough, while three new free schools have opened in Tooting, Balham and Roehampton.

The council has also drawn up proposals for two brand new academies - which could each accommodate up to 420 pupils. These are for the vacant Putney Hospital site and on land formerly occupied by the Atheldene Centre in Earlsfield, which will open next September and be known as the Floreat Wandsworth primary school.

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Recent comments

There is so much pressure on school places because there aren't enough. In normal circumstances there should be a bit of spare capacity in all schools so that the system is most effective (rather than efficient). Putting siblings in different schools means that the parents will have two simultaneous school runs every day. Will the already placed sibling be able to transfer to the new "closer" school?
Richard Stobart

24 October 2014