Agenda item - Chair's Communications
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44.1 The Chair gave the following communication:
I’d like to inform those present that this meeting will be webcast live and will be capable of repeated viewing.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dylan Davies and Katie Scott the Head Teachers of Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and Portslade Aldridge Community Academy for all their amazing work at their schools. As you may have heard Dylan and Katie will be moving on to new roles and I’d like to wish them all the best for the future, I think that their the good Ofsted judgement at both of their schools is a reflection of the work they have done. We look forward to continuing our close relationship with the Aldridge foundation.
At today’s meeting we will be discussing school admission arrangements for 2019. Last year the council consulted on changes to the secondary school catchment areas and also on reducing the published admission numbers at 5 primary schools.
I’d firstly like to thank all those who attended the various meetings held across the city and fed in to the consultation. I’d like to thank, cross party colleagues, officers, teachers, and governors and of course parents for their input.
We will be discussing the report in more detail shortly, the recommendations put forward from the cross party working group came about after detailed discussions taking into consideration the feedback from the consultation as well as new available data.
With regards to the primary school Published Admission Number (PAN) changes, the recommendations being put forward are that the council does not continue with the proposals to reduce the PANs at Hertford Infant and Benfield Primary, but to continue with the reductions at Moulsecoomb Primary, Coombe Road Primary and West Hove Infants. These recommendations were decided upon after listening closely to parents, governors and teachers. However, we must bear in mind that there is still an issue in the city with a continuing reduction in the number of primary aged pupils. The issue of primary school places will have to be revisited in the future.
The strong feeling around the proposed changes to the secondary school catchment areas was shown through several deputations and petitions put forward to this committee and full council. Before the consultation started in October, the city had an issue withsecondary school catchment areas that had to be dealt with. The consultation put forward a solution to the issue that the city had, however, during the consultation circumstances changed. We received a new offer from some of the city’s schools to expand their admission number, which they had previously been reluctant to do. We also received in November updated school census data which shows a reduction in the number of children in our primary schools, much higher than we would have thought. Before the consultation had started we could not have predicted either of these circumstances coming about and this combined with the responses to the consultation meant that the cross party group have put forward a recommendation to not make changes to the catchment areas.
The Council must ensure that there are sufficient places for all children living in the city who require one. This is a clear and direct responsibility that the Council continues to deliver year on year. How, where and who provides the places that the council has to offer is something that the Council must strategically manage whilst not being able to decide for itself.
Whilst this is not the system the administration would want, nor the most efficient method available, it is the system in operation.
The council must ensure there are sufficient places but we have a responsibility to ensure that there are not excessive school places at a time when school budgets are under significant pressure to deliver high quality and effective education. Demographic factors mean pupil numbers change. In this city we have witnessed an adjustment to our forecasts of pupil numbers within that longer cycle and there are fewer pupils needing secondary school places in the coming years. Whilst I have no doubt there will be more pupils in the city in future years we must maintain a sharp focus on what is happening now. The pressure on places in our school catchments has changed since we went to consultation. The number of places our city schools can provide in the next few years has changed. The schools adjudicator has determined extra places will be available at Blatchington Mill. The governors of Varndean and Dorothy Stringer schools can offer more, with additional investment from the council, and the governors of Patcham High School can take more pupils.
Fewer pupils are expected to need a place, more places can be made available in the city’s schools and so the need for the Brighton and Hove Academy needed to be looked at again. Things have changed.
Whilst the UoBAT has put a lot effort into developing the solution that was considered necessary a few years ago, the administration had to re-assess the support previously given to the proposal. Whilst the opening of a new school is a responsibility of the DfE the administration concluded that it could no longer offer its support to its opening, which would provide the city with too many surplus places. Despite every effort being made, the permanent location of the school is not yet agreed and is not in the control of the council. Parents seeking school places for September 2019 need to make informed choices. We do not believe that the planned new free school is no longer in the best interests of the city as a whole.
I understand that parents who have made their choices for a secondary school place this coming September may be unclear what any of this means for them. Blatchington Mill School will provide an extra 30 places this year. No other school’s PAN has changed as yet, but we are in discussion with Varndean whether this would be possible. The council is working through the likely allocation of places for National Offer Day 1 March 2018. School funding decisions from April 2018 are also still to be decided. Therefore, at this time, I cannot provide any further clarity about the location of the places available. When the council is able to do so I will ensure that this is communicated to parents across the city.
We will discuss this further later in the meeting and once again I would like to thank everyone for their involvement in the consultation last year.
In December 2017 the Department for Education published the first national data on the take up of 30 hours free childcare. From September 2017 working parents of 3 and 4 year olds were entitled to an additional 15 hours of free child care a week. In Brighton & Hove we have been working hard to ensure that eligible parents and children can take up the extra entitlement. The data shows that we have been very successful, and in November 2017 1206 3-4 year olds were taking up their entitlement, and out of local authorities we were ninth in the country and top in the south east.
When the meeting has finished, we will be showing two short films from Amaze as part of their 20th birthday celebrations, so I would suggest that all members remain to watch the films.