NKSSC – North Kingston Secondary School Campaign
AIM: To ensure that the children of North Kingston are offered a good choice of local state secondary schools.
The current secondary school campaign began in January 2006 when 2 parents joined forces to ‘privately and personally’ research secondary school options for their children. They were determined to avoid local hearsay and determine the facts. What they unearthed horrified them and led to the development of a campaign which has gained a momentum of its own; involving petitions, politicians, press, committee meetings and a whole host of other parents.
Campaigns for better secondary school options for the children of North Kingston have been running, in one form or another, for over 10 years; ever since Fern Hill Primary School was first built. Fern Hill was built to ensure adequate primary school provision for the ever-increasing number of children of school age in the area but so far no additional secondary school provision has been provided.
The campaign immediately preceding this one was called Tiffins for Local Children (TLC) and aimed to convince Tiffin Girls School (Tiffin boys is a foundation school and therefore sets its own admission criteria) to find a way to increase it’s intake of local children. In July 2007 both Tiffins Schools refused to change their entrance criteria.
The children of North Kingston fall into an educational no-mans land. The only Kingston school at which they are guaranteed to be offered a place is Chessington Community College; an under-subscribed school that is an unacceptably long bus journey away.
The shape of the borough means that the closest school (geographically ) to North Kingston is Tiffin Girls’ School. The Tiffins Schools are selective and are now considered (by the LEA) as ‘regional schools’. They take only 30% of their intake from the borough of Kingston. In the case of Tiffins Girls School this means only 36 girls from the entire borough of Kingston will be offered places, despite the fact that all of the Tiffins places (120 for the girls, 140 for the boys) appear in the borough’s number of available school places. Only two or three pupils from each of the local school North Kingston primary schools will get places at the Tiffins Schools each year (and that is on a good year).
The next closest secondary schools are Hollyfield and Coombe Girls. In 2007 the distance criteria from home to school of the last place offered at Hollyfield was 2.8K. The figure for Coombe girls was 2.7K (this has reduced year on year for the last three years – from 3.5K in 2005). This means that anybody living north of Latchmere Road lives too far away to be offered a place.
Locally, that then leaves only the Richmond LEA Schools; Grey Court or Teddington.
Richmond operates a link school policy (see Richmond LEA and link school policy) whereby applications from children at linked primary schools are given preference.
Currently St Paul’s primary school in Kingston has a link with Teddington.
Latchmere School has a link with Grey Court School.
Kingston LEA, the headteacher of Fern Hill and the deputy headteacher at Grey Court tell us that Fern Hill also has a link with Grey Court but this does not appear in the Grey Court prospectus.
If children are offered places at Grey Court, what is the problem?
Choice – if you live in the north of the borough you have no choice. The only local school at which you are likely to be offered a place is currently Grey Court.
Grey Court, having had some difficulties in the past, is now a great co-ed comprehensive option and will become increasingly popular as it’s results improve.
However, history has shown that the children of North Kingston are always welcome at schools when they are under-subscribed. It is when they are over-subscribed that the children have to find alternatives.
Back in 2000 Grey Court was a beacon school and over-subscribed. Fern Hill, being a new school (it’s first year 6 was about to leave in 2001) had no links and fought hard to establish one with Grey Court. Parents went to the school’s adjudicator to fight for a link with Grey Court. The school’s adjudicator agreed with Richmond LEA that a link with Fern Hill would cause ‘anxiety and instability’ in schools already linked. Richmond LEA’s objection to the link also included the fact that whilst it has a statutory obligation to educate those pupils resident in the borough of Richmond it ‘does not have any such obligation to pupils resident in Kingston’.
NKSSC is concerned that if Grey Court becomes over-subscribed (as all successful schools inevitably do), the children of North Kingston and Fern Hill in particular will find themselves without even that option.
Whilst this may seem unlikely, history has proven it may well happen. When Fern Hill was refused a link with Grey court in 2000, it was given ‘partner school’ status at Hollyfield. However, as Hollyfield has become more and more popular distance criteria has come into play. In 2007, Hollyfield had 726 applicants for 180 places, the distance from home to school of the last child offered a place was 2.7k. Most North Kingston children, especially those attending Fern Hill live too far away to be offered a place.
Richmond LEA and link school policy.
Richmond established its link school policy in order to offset the possible effects of the Greenwich Judgement (see below) and to safeguard places for Richmond borough pupils in Richmond borough schools.
To establish a link a pattern of transfer must be established. A link can be established when at least 25% of year 6 leavers or a minimum of 15 pupils transfer to a particular school. Links can be lost if less than the minimum number transfer in any one year. If there are more applicants from link schools than there are places available then the usual distance criteria come into play. Primary schools can only link with one secondary school.
However, in October 2007 the Richmond Schools Admissions Forum discussed the LEA consulting on the abolition of the borough’s link school policy (LSP). According to the minutes of the meeting, this was because ‘the fact that all but one of the community mixed secondary schools each has links from one or more out-borough primary schools undermines the original intention of the LSP to safeguard places for borough-residents’.
Many arguments for and against the LSP were considered; if it were abolished it ‘could result in more out-borough children obtaining places on distance; and such a possibility could be most acute at Teddington School, which is being rebuilt at a cost of £30million’; ‘some primary schools, which are linked to less popular secondary schools, lose one or two year 5 and year 6 children per year to primary schools which are linked to the more popular secondary schools’.
Ultimately the committee failed to reach a consensus at that time and agreed that the Authority should consult upon retaining the LSP for 2009 Admissions. We have no further information as to the intentions of Richmond LEA for 2010 Admissions.
The Greenwich Judgement
The Greenwich Judgement dictates that schools are not permitted to operate entrance criteria based on borough boundaries. It was established in order to ensure fair access to good schools for all children regardless of background and parental means. In short it was intended to discourage parents from buying homes close to good schools in order to ensure access for their children.
The Petition for a new Secondary School in North Kingston
In May 2007, an additional duty was introduced to the 1996 Education Act. This duty meant that Local Authorities (LAs) had a duty to consider parental representations about the exercise of their functions in relation to the provision of primary and secondary education. The Act places new duties on LAs to promote diversity and increase parental choice in planning and securing the provision of school places. LAs should support new schools and new provision where there is a real local sustainable demand from parents or where existing provision is poor.
In November 2007, local parents, Tracy Allnutt and Karenza McCarthy submitted the following petition with over 2,600 signatures:
PETITION FOR A NEW SECONDARY SCHOOL IN NORTH KINGSTON
The parents of North Kingston require the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames to do all that is required to ensure the opening of an additional secondary school in North Kingston, in order to promote equality of opportunity across the borough and to meet its legislative responsibilities.
In North Kingston there is considerable concern among parents that, unless a girls orboy can qualify for the Tiffins Schools, there is no Secondary School in North Kingston to which pupils can attend. The Coombe Schools in New Malden are already subscribed by local pupils.
The reasons why we believe these concerns are justified:
· Pupil numbers
The council is currently updating its projection of pupil numbers. The last publication projected that by 2010 the surplus of places for the year 7 intake across the whole borough would be 55, i.e. 3%. Experience suggest that 3% is too small a margin to cater for the inevitable variations of intake that will occur (DCSF guidance on surplus places target = 7%).
· A Growing Population
In the Kingston Town Neighbourhood, from January 2000 to March 2007 2058 units of accommodation received planning permission.
There are a further 522 units in the planning permission pipeline.
The developments within the Town Centre, currently under discussion, are expected to provide yet a further 500 new units of accommodation.
There are believed to be at least another 100 units being considered by applicants.
A TOTAL of 3,180 new units, varying from one bed to four beds each.
We acknowledge that some of these units will be replacing existing units and that not all will “produce” children. But commonsense says that, within a few years, these increases will result in more pupils in North Kingston than can be accommodates within the existing non-selective school provision.
· Local Places for Local Pupils
The selective Tiffins Schools admit less than half their yearly intake from the Kingston Borough. A scheme to increase the Kingston intake but remain consistent with the Greenwich Judgement was rejected almost unanimously by the governing boards of each school in July 2007.
So we, being parents of children in North Kingston, petition the council to sponsor a new Secondary School in North Kingston. We envisage a four-form, co-educational school, based on the North Kingston Centre site.
Kingston Council’s Response to the Petition submitted in November 2007
The Council’s initial response was set out at a meeting on the 22 January 2008. In short, they stated that ‘the LA does not consider the petition to be a representation from parents requiring a response under the new duty, as it does not appear to be based on dissatisfaction with the poor standards of their child’s potential schools in the are ir dissatisfaction with the current pattern of provision in the area in relation to beliefs or educational preferences for a particular category of school.’
However, the Council conceded that there are concerns by parents about the lack of choice of local secondary school in the North Kingston area and that it has a responsibility to address them.
The Council committed to:
· Work in collaboration with Richmond…with the aim of improving, expanding and re-building Grey Court School.
· Develop its BSF (Building Schools for the Future) Strategy….(to) reflect local needs.
· Carry out further research to assess parental satisfaction with regard to the choice of secondary schools in North Kingston,
· Hold a public meeting with regard to Secondary School Provision for the children of North Kingston.
On 24 June 2008 the Building Schools for the Future Strategy for Change: Secondary Education was presented to the Executive for approval. The report conceded that it had more to do to improve choice and increase the number of parents who can access a place for their child in a school among their top preferences.
The council were clear that there was sufficient provision of secondary school places until 2015. However, the Kingston schools include: Chessington, Coombe Girls, Coombe Boys, Hollyfield, Holy Cross, Richard Challoner, Southborough High, Tiffin Girls, Tiffin Boys and Tolworth Girls. Many of which are not either not ‘local’ or over-subscribed.
The council have a duty to provide a percentage of spare places in order to afford ‘choice’. Given that the Tiffin Schools only take 30% of their intake from the borough, NKSSC feel that it is erroneous and misleading to include their 260 places per year in the total of available places. A truer reflection would be to only include the 30% available Tiffin places. This would then take the council below their statutory requirement of surplus places.
Ultimately the report concedes that ‘increased capacity will clearly be needed. In planning for the future it may result in the need to expand the number of 11-16places in one or two secondary schools by 2 to 3 forms of entry or to consider the need for a new small secondary school of possible 4 forms of entry which, to be viable and on the advice of the DCSF would need to be federated with another successful school’.
Where are we now?
The Council is currently undertaking research with parents in the north Kingston area to ascertain levels of satisfaction with secondary school provision. This research was to be taken by an independent agency and question parents of year 1 and year 5 children in October 2008. NKSSC campaigners have suggested that including year 3 or 4 parents in this research would give a better representation as opinions are more or less informed/emotive and variable as children progress through the school.
The Council is working on forming a joint venture with Richmond to ensure that as Grey Court improves Kingston children are given fair access.
The Council is also pursuing the possibility of a new four-form entry school for north Kingston via a collaboration with the borough of Croydon (which would afford early access to the BSF programme).
Do we need to keep campaigning?
Absolutely. We need to keep campaigning to ensure that momentum is not lost and the needs of children in North Kingston are not forgotten.
We need to keep pressuring the local, and if needs be, national bodies to ensure that what is currently under consideration goes ahead.
If we do nothing, nothing will change.
For more detailed information on:
· The 1996 Education Act (specifically Section 14A) and LAs Duty to Respond to Parental Representation about the Provision of Schools, go to http://www.dfes.gov.uk.schoolorg
· Kingston Council’s Response to the Petition for a New Secondary School in North Kingston, go to http://www.kingston.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/committeeminutes. Here you will find minutes of the Council Executive Meetings where the petition and responses were discussed. Appendices provide the full reports submitted to the Executive. The most relevant meetings were those on 22 January 2008 (initial response to the petition) and 24 June 2008 (Building Schools for the Future Strategy).
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