A row has cropped up in my area about an academy’s proposal to change its admissions policy. Instead of giving priority to children living near to the school, it wants to prioritise children from two Church of England schools. It has been proposed that from next year half of its allocated places will automatically be given to children from the faith schools (after places have been given to any adopted and looked after children who remain top priority). Any remaining places will then be allocated to children within the catchment zone, those with siblings at the school and those who are outside the catchment area but who are closest to the school. Nevertheless with half of places being given to pupils from the faith schools there will be no automatic guarantee that children who live locally to the school will be given a place.
Not surprisingly this has created a flood of protest from parents who feel betrayed by the school which for decades provided an education for its local children. Now it seems that the powers to be have other ideas which could have a huge impact on local families and repercussions for other schools. Of course there is no surety these plans will go ahead as the proposals are still at consultation stage but it does show the potential power of academies to set their own criteria for selection.
It is this power to select that worries me particularly with regard to children with disabilities and SEN. With so much pressure on schools to perform will academies want our children if they are challenging to teach? I can’t help but think that we’re heading for a two tier system: academies that cream off the best whilst leaving state schools for other children. But what happens to those children who the academies don’t want and the local authorities can’t provide for because lets be frank there aren’t enough schools for our SEN children?
Well the other alternatives are to set up your own school, find a private school or home educate. For me, setting up my own school is out of the question as I don’t have the time or the connections to embark on such a venture. Finding a private school is also not possible as they are too far away which leaves home education which I am not keen on either. So much for parental choice but more worryingly what will happen to SEN children like my aspergers daughter who cannot access an education? Has anyone considered them? Does anyone care?