Tuesday, 31 August 2010

UPDATE: Maiden Erlegh catchment area changes

I have now talked to officers at both Wokingham and Reading about possible changes to the catchment area of Maiden Erlegh school which would exclude children from the Alfred Sutton school area.

First, let me say that the setup of schools as they are at the moment with Reading children going to Wokingham secondary schools dates back to when Berkshire county council looked after education. I think it's massively unfair for Wokingham Council to use its control of these schools to disadvantage Reading children who have as much right to go there. I will fight the corner of Reading parents and children.

I have set up a Facebook group called No to Maiden Erlegh Catchment Area Changes to bring people together to fight these changes. If you aren't on Facebook and want to be kept updated please get in contact.

I don't have a copy of the report yet -- as it hasn't been published -- but from my two conversations on the phone with officers from Reading and Wokingham it appears as though the recommendations in it are along the lines of:

-- Wokingham should change the catchment area of Maiden Erlegh secondary school to exclude Reading children from the Alfred Sutton school area.
-- These children will still be able to access places at Bulmershe School in Wokingham.
-- There will be sibling protection, so if a child already has an older brother or sister at Maiden Erlegh school then they will be able to get a place there to.

The timeline so far runs like this:

-- In January Wokingham started a review of secondary school admissions -- for 2012 -- following the closure of Ryeish Green.
-- They appointed an independent consultant -- Alan Parker. His report went to a review board with an independent chair.
-- Wokingham Council are about to publish the report and consult on its recommendations roughly from September to October -- they are planning to consult Reading parents too. There will be two consultation meetings, one on September 29 and one on October 6 -- venues haven't been agreed yet.
-- The results of this consultation will go to an admissions forum in November. The output of the admissions forum will then go to statutory consultation from December to February.
-- This will then go to Wokingham Council's executive in March -- for councillors to agree. There is one more opportunity to object. The policy will be in place by mid April.


Andrew said...

Hi Rob, I see your claim to be into "Fairness"does not apply when it would harm your own interests? The current catchment areas are clearly not "Fair", but don't let that stop you from campaigning to keep them how they are.

Rob White said...

Thanks for your comment. I agree that some elements of the current Maiden Erlegh catchment area are unfair. However, a good number Reading children, who if Wokingham gets its way, are about to find themselves out of the new catchment area for a school they live very close to. Some almost live about as close as it is possible to get -- Holmes Road for example. Changing the catchment area to exclude these children is massively unfair and this is why I am working with parents and fighting against it.

Andrew said...

"Massively unfair" is one way of putting it, "Slightly unfortunate" is another. If these children go to Maiden Erlegh then other children will have to travel even further to get to their school.

The logic boils down to this: Why should some children have to travel 3 miles to school and others travel 1.5 miles, when a solution exists that would let all children travel 1.5 miles.

Even if this has the unfortunate effect for some that they can not go to their closest school, it is still a much fairer solution for all.

I take it you do not support a system where geographical closeness to a school should be the criteria that governs entry? That system leads to those who can afford it buying / renting houses as close to the school as possible, excluding those who cannot afford to do this.

Personally, I favour a lottery solution for oversubscribed schools, resolving all these issues.

Rob White said...

Andrew, I don't follow your logic. Without building some new secondary schools -- which I support -- there is no system where all children will be able to travel 1.5 miles to school.

I do agree that it is unfair that the wealthy can afford to buy a house close to a good school. Bigger catchment areas and a lottery system is one solution to this problem. More investment in underachieving schools is another option.

Andrew said...

Hi Rob,

The residents of the catchment area you are campaigning for have two local secondary schools within reasonable walking distance, ME and Bulmershe. Can we agree on that?

The residents who live in the far part of Lower Earley have only one secondary school in reasonable walking distance, ME. Can we agree on that?

As the catchment areas have not been changed for many years Lower Early residents are currently in the catchment area for Bulmershe school, which is not within reasonable walking distance. Can we agree on that?

The proposed change, simply put, will allow both sets of parents to have access to a school to which their children can walk. Yes, it is slightly farther for those people in Reading to walk to Bulmershe than ME, but that is the trade off needed in order for other members of the community to be able to access a school within walking distance.

I was not suggesting that there is an exact system where all children will walk 1.5 miles, I was distilling the problem to its essential components.

The "We need new schools" option is not one that is one of the available as WBC has enough school places for all its pupils and I believe plenty of Reading (many 100's) pupils as well.

It seems clear to me that if you were a councillor in the area of Lower Earley currently excluded from the ME designated area then you would have no problem following this logic.

Rob White said...

I feel this conversation is going round in circles please give me a call to discuss. You can find my contact details on the Reading Borough Council website.