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Heads admit allocation of secondary school places could be improved upon

The allocation of secondary school places across the borough is under fire again this week after a governor at Furze Platt Infant School branded the system ‘unfair’.

David Gordon-Smith has been a governor at the school for more than 15 years.

He lives in Court Road and has a son in sixth-form at Furze Platt Senior School and another at Furze Platt Junior School who has been offered a secondary school place at Altwood School in September.

He said he thought the admissions system should allocate the nearest school first then bring in parental choice as Altwood is nearly twice the distance Furze Platt Senior is from his house.

He added: “It doesn't seem right somehow.”

Mr Gordon-Smith said the current system provides an advantage to Cookham residents at the expense of those in Riverside and that changing the criteria to offer the nearest school first would be fairer for all.

It follows a number of similar complaints made about secondary school allocation across the borough.

In March, Amy Hewitt, a parent governor at Oldfield Primary School highlighted how the allocation of secondary school places across the Oldfield ward left parents at a disadvantage.

And in September last year, mum-of-three Milica Gay, from Holyport, raised concerns about how pupils in Holyport, particularly the girls, have also been disadvantaged.

David added: “Whilst I doubt I can make any headway this year and my son will be a victim of a grossly unfair system I hope changes can be made so that Riverside residents are not disadvantaged in this way in future.”

Council leader Simon Dudley (Con, Maidenhead Riverside) said it was a difficult situation because schools are ‘heavily oversubscribed’ and that they set their own admissions policy, so even if the council wanted to change it that would require a consultation and would then need to be cleared with the Department of Education.

He added: “Realistically the earliest that could be done is September 2020/21.”

Cllr Dudley described it as a ‘dynamic situation’ with ‘winners and losers’ and that the sensible time to discuss admissions policy with schools would be during future expansion plans, but added he would be willing to have a conversation with schools in the mean time.

A letter signed by the director of children's services, Kevin McDaniel, and the admission authorities of Maidenhead secondary schools acknowledges that the allocation of secondary school places could be improved upon.

It reads as follows:

The headteachers of the central Maidenhead secondary schools, acting as the representatives of the different admission authorities, and the local authority met on the May 9, 2018, to discuss the outcome of the secondary allocation for September 2018.

The purpose of the meeting was to look collectively at the impact of the current admissions arrangements for each secondary school, including the shared designated area for Maidenhead, feeder schools and priority linked schools.

The group recognise that any admission arrangement change has ramifications for many families over an extended period and therefore agreed that any locally agreed change would need to improve upon the current arrangements so that the practices and the criteria used to decide the allocation of school places are fair, clear and objective.

Following a detailed analysis of the current position and how this has been reflected in the allocation data for the last few years, the group recognise the challenge faced by residents living in the south-east of Maidenhead in the Oldfield and Holyport areas, and other areas on the outskirts of the town when accessing their first preference schools under the current arrangements.

However, it was not possible to identify any immediate change to the current admissions arrangements which would not simply move disadvantage to another group of residents.

The group is mindful that the Office of the Schools Adjudicator is currently considering a complaint regarding access to preferred schools for families in the south-east of Maidenhead and unanimously decided that the Adjudicator’s decision and any guidance contained in that decision would be used to determine any immediate next steps.

The group also noted that a review of the use of designated areas and feeder schools in Maidenhead will be needed once a decision has been made to build a new secondary school as part of the Borough Local Plan.

Each school is committed to meeting parental preference as far as possible, however while schools remain oversubscribed inevitably there will be families who will be disappointed with the outcome for their child.

However, at the current time all the secondary schools in the Maidenhead area are OFSTED rated Good or above, and residents therefore have access to a quality education whichever school they attend.

On behalf of the Director of Children's Services and the admission authorities of the Maidenhead Secondary Schools:

Louise Ceska
Newlands Girls School


Neil Dimbleby
Altwood Church of England School


Frances Walsh
Cox Green School


Paul Frazer
Desborough College


Tanya White
Furze Platt Senior School


Kevin McDaniel
Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

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