While I was knocking on doors at the weekend on The Rings in Ingleby Barwick I was asked many times about a council consultation over secondary school places which was getting parents very cross so this evening I took the time to go to a public meeting to understand the facts and the strength of feeling.
Let me begin with the background for you which I have taken the time to learn since my conversations on Saturday on Apsey Way.
With the advent of Ingleby Manor Free School, now offering 120 pupils aged 11 years a place each year, Stockton Borough Council have initiated an interim review of secondary school catchment areas covering children who live in Ingleby Barwick.
(It has to conduct a borough-wide review approximately every 7 years, the next of which is due in a couple of years time, however it is also required to submit an annual interim report to the Government including any proposed changes on a smaller scale where schools have opened, closed, grown or there has been a new estate built which changes the demographics etc. This year the review looks specifically at the September 2016 intake. Any proposed changes would be for this year only. The response is due with the DfE by mid April 2015).
Because Conyers (where I went to school) and All Saints, two schools which also serve Ingleby Barwick are now both academies, their catchment areas are a matter entirely for themselves. The council has no power to review the areas from which they chose to draw their pupils. Both schools have currently chosen to continue with the catchment areas that were set for them when the schools were part of the local authority. However, they are free to change their admission criteria as they see fit.
Therefore the only school whose catchment area the borough could legally review, in the light of the opening of Ingleby Manor Free School is Egglescliffe which remains one of very few Community Schools – under the direction of the Local Authority in the borough. Currently children in the north and west of Ingleby Barwick, specifically in the villages of The Rings and parts of Broom Hill fall within the catchment area for Egglescliffe which is a very popular, high achieving school and is regularly over-subscribed.
This year Egglescliffe was unable to take approximately a dozen pupils into year 6 from the villages of Carlton, Redmarshall and others to the north of their catchment area. Many of those children then, ironically, chose to attend Ingleby Manor Free School and travel every morning towards Ingleby Barwick while other 11 years olds come the other way.
Stockton Borough Council is therefore currently consulting on proposals to class the Ingleby Barwick part of the Egglescliffe School catchment area as a new zone – Zone B, giving priority first to the rest of its current catchment area as Zone A. This in effect means that once special needs and sibling links have been taken into consideration, children from Eaglescliffe itself and the western parishes of Long Newton, Elton, Redmarshall, Carlton etc will take first preference before the pupils of Ingleby Barwick.
This would leave parents on The Rings and Broom Hill in the unfortunate position of being outside the catchment for Conyers and All Saints, taking pot luck with children across the estate for the Free School and having only a B rated chance of getting into Egglescliffe.
A public meeting was held this evening in Barleyfields Junior School in Ingleby to talk to parents about these proposals.
Approximately 50 parents turned up and there was standing room only as officers from the council talked through the consultation.
There was a lot of anger and frustration and the view in the room was unanimous that the plans for 2016 intakes are not acceptable to parents and that the status quo should remain for the time being.
Most parents said that they are not fighting to get their children into Egglescliffe in particular, they are fighting for a fair deal for their children, that they did not want their families to be the only ones on the estate with a limited choice. They were particularly and vociferously opposed to the idea of being in Zone B with all the connotations that gave about playing second fiddle to other parents and pupils on the estate.
(Anyone on Ingleby can apply for the Free School or a Catholic school education but these particular parents would find it harder to successfully apply for a place at All Saints, Conyers or Egglescliffe)
I have responded to the formal consultation myself saying:
Parents are rightly angry at any suggestion that their children should be second-class when it comes to finding a place in a secondary school. Having listened very closely to their views on the doorstep and at the public meeting I am making it clear to the council that no changes should be considered until borough-wide school boundary reviews take place (as they must) in a couple of years time. There must be equality in the system. It would be grossly unfair to deny local pupils the same chance as everyone else just because they live in the newest part of Ingleby.”
There was broad support and enthusiasm for the junior schools catchment area proposals which are also part of the consultation review.
The consultation can be found at this link and I urge you to respond if you are affected or have a view to express.