Delay in school priority places for Warwickshire

Warwickshire County Council has delayed the introduction of its super priority areas scheme.
Warwickshire County Council has delayed the introduction of its super priority areas scheme.

The idea of introducing school ‘super priority areas’ (SPAs) - which would offer younger siblings the chance to go to the same school as older brothers and sisters - is expected to be postponed.

A county council cabinet meeting being held yesterday (Thursday) was expected to endorse a decision already made by the overview and scrutiny committee to delay the introduction of SPAs.

The concept was meant to be pioneered in Warwick schools next year before being rolled out across the rest of the county in 2016.

But after three out of six Warwick schools objected, county Cllr Heather Timms suggested the scheme be delayed.

Among the schools lodging formal objections to the idea that all children living in a SPA would be assured a place - were Woodloes Primary, Newburgh and Coten End.

The objection from Coten End surprised some as only last year the school allowed admission to 22 pupils from outside the catchment area.

To accommodate the extra class, the popular school was given a temporary portable classroom - but it can offer no guarantee of places for any younger siblings if they live out of the area.

Parent activists Hayley Hindle and Ellie Costello are dismayed the scheme has been postponed because of the growing problem of families having to send young children to different schools.

Establishing SPAs would mean an assurance of a place at a local school and the ability of younger family members to join brothers and sisters if they live within the expanded SPA,

Mrs Hindle said: “A solution is needed to the growing school place crisis in Warwickshire.

“With increasing numbers of children coming through the system, more and more siblings each year and unable to join their older brothers and sisters at their infant and junior school.”

This can create huge problems for parents having to rush from one school to another or perhaps paying for a child to be collected by a childminder.

Mrs Costello said: “We are calling on the county council to start leading effectively and making decisions. Cllr Timms professes to be in favour of SPAs but she is doing little to lead on this issue.”

Newburgh School has potentially 99 children seeking enrolment in September but only 60 places.

At Westgate - which has shown support for SPAs - there are 72 children in the catchment area for 45 places.

The head of Coten End was unwilling to comment about the situation as headteachers face restrictions on discussing political issues.

But both Mrs Costello and Mrs Hindle say the school’s opposition to the idea means any siblings of the 22 first-born children Coten End accepted in September from outside its catchment area mean that any younger members of the same family may well not be allocated a place.

Both parents accuse the county council of leaving no time for any decision to be challenged.