Saturday, 5 February 2011

Wokingham wants a Valentine's Card

There are now only 9 days left before Wokingham's consultation about its new Maiden Erlegh plans closes.

Incase the issue has passed you by, these are the plans by Wokingham Borough Council to prevent South Park's children being able to attend their closest school, Maiden Erlegh. For fuller details click here .This plan will also strangely exclude a large number of Wokingham children who live on the Wokingham Road and also in the roads around Maiden Erlegh. This is also the plan that was welcomed as "equitable" by Park Ward's Conservative Councillor. I attach an extract of his letter to Park Ward above for your amusement.

I was at the drop in meeting yesterday arranged by the Parents' Group. I was surprised to see that the Conservative Councillors were there but I was glad to see that they were getting a serious earful from the parents who are effected by their "equitable" solution.

So I am urging all residents of Park Ward, and those affected in the WBC area to write to Wokingham Borough Council as a matter of urgency. The Park Parents' Group have produced a very useful letter which I reproduce for you here. Please feel free to copy and paste it to use as a basis for your leaflet.

We will keep fitting and keep working to make sure that we get a fair solution that does not descriminate against Park's children. So 9 days to save the catchment area.

Sample Letter

Secondary Schools Admission Consultation YOUR ADDRESS HERE

Wokingham Borough Council

Civic Offices,

Shute End,

Wokingham, RG40 1BN



Secondary Schools Admissions Consultation

Dear Sir or Madam

I appreciate the need to review the admissions arrangements but there is no pressing or urgent need for change in the case of Maiden Erlegh and Bulmershe (as confirmed by the Independent Review commissioned by WBC). The current DA and tie-break works perfectly well. Maiden Erlegh has a strong community from areas in both Wokingham and Reading.

It should be noted that all currently linked schools have very close ties with Maiden Erlegh and have exceptionally high transfer rates for pupils where that is possible.

I strongly object to the proposed changes to the Maiden Erlegh DA and tie-break for the following reasons:


Reasons for objection

Size of Designated Area: It makes no sense to enlarge a DA so it is massively too big for the school capacity (as confirmed by the Independent Review commissioned by WBC)

Tie Break: The proposed tie-break gives many parents no way of assessing of a child will get a place at Maiden Erlegh. It is unstable near Maiden Erlegh and prioritises pupils that live 3km away over children that might live 300m away

It makes no sense to name the alternative when other schools (John Madjeski, Reading Girls and Forest are much closer) – the Borough Boundary is irrelevant in this matter. This system is not used anywhere else in the country – for good reason!

Social/Demographic Issues: This proposal clearly does not comply with the Schools Admission Code on this matter. The first area to be excluded by the tie-break is the most deprived area of the DA. It will adversely impact the diversity of Maiden Erlegh and The Bulmershe and deprive children of a chance at an ‘Outstanding’ school

Community: All children in Reading Borough and many children in Wokingham Borough Council will be allocated a place at Bulmershe in Woodley, which is not part of our community and much further away.

This will divide our community which surrounds the school, with some getting in and others not. And with no real certainty in any year where the cut off will be. In time, Maiden Erlegh School will become detached from the community living on its door step, serving a community which lives further away.

Many local parents made a decision to be in the Maiden Erlegh catchment area and are part of the Earley community that it serves. Our community has contributed Governors, PTA members and other people who have provided both professional and voluntary skills and talents to the school for many years. Why should these parents now be penalised when other residents did not make the active and positive decision to be part of the Maiden Erlegh catchment area?

Linked Schools: This will also impact on the links between the local primary schools (Aldryngton, Alfred Sutton, Loddon and Earley St Peters) and an outstanding secondary school. The staff and pupils benefit from close links with Maiden Erlegh –through staff training (for example the visual arts department). Transfer rates for children who attend these schools and live in the current Designated Area for Maiden Erlegh are very high. Siblings who attend Maiden Erlegh pick up their younger siblings at the end of the day at all of the local primary schools. This is a benefit recognised in the Admissions code in section 2.22. Moving these children to Bulmershe, makes this impossible

Child Safety: Parents without access to a car will have to let their children make an often hazardous journey to Bulmershe School. Children will have to cross a dangerous, busy road and negotiate a narrow bridge over a railway and motorway, all in darkness in winter. They will have to walk past a lonely, expanse of grassland, on their own if they have stayed at extracurricular activities after school.

Complexity and Clarity: The proposed tie-break is impossible to understand and unclear and gives parents in many areas no chance to predict their chances of a place. Again this clearly breaches the School Admissions Code

Traffic/Green Issues: WBC traffic surveys using the national guidelines are completely unrealistic. Independent Research states that as soon as the travel distance increases over a mile car travel vastly increases (despite what certain Lower Earley residents may be saying). This will vastly increase the numbers of car journeys to Maiden Erlegh and increase the number of car journeys to Bulmershe

Greenwich Judgement: The Schools Admissions Code and the Greenwich Judgement make it very clear that neighbouring boroughs must not be disadvantaged. That this is being done via an obscure tie-break rather than a boundary line is irrelevant as the effect is the same.

Reading children are being deprived of a place at an ‘Outstanding’ school and that fact that a different group of Wokingham children is being disadvantaged is irrelevant.

Appeals and Finances: Given that Maiden Erlegh will be first choice for more than 90% of parents in the new catchments area, many will be disappointed and will appeal against the place they have been allocated. This will in turn raise the number of appeals, the costs of which will fall to the school. As an academy, Maiden Erlegh School will have to employ a full time independent appeals co-ordinator – a huge waste of public finances and tax payers’ money

Parental Choice: This effectively removes all parental choice for all except a band stretching into Lower Earley

Please add your own arguments here: (e.g., your personal situation and any personal views you might want to add, including comments about the consultation process itself or the psychological impact on older primary school aged pupils, especially year 5 who have been left in a state of indecision about their education)