Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tudor Grange: admission fears "groundless"

ALL children who live within the catchment of Tudor Grange Academy will be able to get a place up to 2019 despite controversial admission changes, its leaders have said.

Click the headline or link below to read the rest of this story.

The school said fears over its plan to give priority to children from two primary schools over catchment area children are “groundless”.

It said of the 250 places available in coming years, 50 are expected to come from the two primaries, St James’ and St Alphege schools that do not live in the catchment.

A further 169 to 187 are expected to come from the catchment area, meaning there will be enough room for both groups, it said.

The plans have led to concerns – backed by a petition – that children will be denied places when favour is given to the two faith primary schools.

In a statement, the principal and governors said: “We are concerned that recent press articles have alarmed parents who wish their children to enter the academy over the coming years.

“This alarm centres on an incorrect impression that proposed admission changes would mean that children who live in the catchment area could be denied a place as a result of the changes.

“Data provided by SMBC [Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council] make it clear that this fear is groundless.

“The present admission quota is 250, this is not filled from the catchment area by a large margin, a margin that is predicted to widen up to and including 2019, which is the last year for which reliable demographic data exists.

“Within the time frame data, again from SMBC, this indicates that the Academy can comfortably accommodate every catchment area child plus the additional numbers who might choose to come from St James and St Alphege Junior Schools.”

The children who get priority under the new plans will be, in order: looked after children; children from the two primaries; catchment area children; those with an older sibling at the academy and then those living closest in a straight line.

The school will prioritise catchment area children with older siblings and then those who live closest if it is oversubscribed.

But it did not make clear how the changes would affect these children.

Tudor Grange – which took over St James’ in January - can make the changes as it is now free of council control since becoming an academy.

It said it has been approached by the council to increase its intake to 270 to “cope” with planned new housing.

It pointed out it had taken over St James’ with Church of England backing amidst “no adverse comments” from parents.

The primary – which the statement said was “threatened with closure” - is now named Tudor Grange Primary Academy St James.

But it said: “There are no plans to change the present designation of Tudor Grange Academy.”
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71 comments:

  1. What a shame that Tudor Grange did not provide this information at the beginning of the consultation period. Sadly I think they have their sums wrong as they have ignored the fact that St James is very under subscribed. The admission arrangements must have a fail safe to ensure that children in the catchment do not lose their place at the school. More importantly Tudor Grange need to explain why they want to make this change at all.

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  2. If there is no pressure on places why not place the children from the two faith schools behind those in catchnment. Seems the obvious solution to me.
    There is no need for change if there are enough places for both categories.

    Have I missed the point?

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    1. Good idea. Shame the highly intelligent, well-paid academics couldn't think that up.

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. The children who get priority under the new plans will be, in order: looked after children; children from the two primaries(2 faith schools who discriminate based on faith) ; catchment area children; those with an older sibling at the academy and then those living closest in a straight line.

    Our analysis shows that SMBC figures are inept. The SMBC model predicts that the tie up will have no affect on the St James and St Alphege intakes. There is in fact a rush by parents to fill St J and St A. Our predictions are:

    By 2016 faith school children will displace ALL siblings AND out of catchment children
    By 2019 faith school children will displace 39 cacthment children as well as siblings and out of catchment children

    By 2020 we predict that more than half the places at TGA will be taken by faith school children. Essentially making this a move to turn TGA into a faith school by the back door..

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  6. TGA are an academy independent of the council. Why are they quoting SMBC figures?

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    1. SMBC is the only agency with a global view of all the schools and associated data. As ever, they've screwed up and haven't done enough sensitivity analysis. In any kind of stats crunching like this, you should always incorporate a variety of scenarios. They did the same thing when TGA were trying to introduce Powerleage football (remember that?) SMBC said almost half the football teams would arrive by bus! They forgot to check what time the services finished. It was hilarious.

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  7. My over-riding concern is that Tudor Grange Academy is not a faith school and so cannot possibly justify selection on the grounds of faith. On a personal level, despite only living 0.6 miles away from TGA( my daughter walks this in ten minutes), my son will now be unlikely to attend the same school as his older sister as we do not fall in the TGA catchment. I think this is a big problem in this area. TGA is not a new school, or a failing school with falling roles, it is actually an over-subscribed school, so any changes to admissions is going to displace a local group of families.



    I also hotly dispute Principal Jennifer Bexon-Smith's assertion that they only expect 50 more children taking places as a result of the change. One only has to look at the admission figure for St James 2013 year 3 intake which is 60. Also, as St Alphege is not a catchment school roughly only half of St Alphege children gain a catchment place at TGA. Potentially this will mean many of the other, out of catchment children at St Alphege, taking up places. Ms Bexon-Smith is delusional if she thinks only 50 are going to take up places!



    I'd also like to draw your attention to the following quotes fro recently historic correspondence from TGA:


    1st July 2010 - "There would also be no change in the principles guiding pupil admissions, since we are determined to remain a successful comprehensive school serving the local population"

    30th Sept 2010 - "...Secretary of State has this week signed the Funding Agreement to allow Tudor Grange School to convert into an Academy from 1st October 2010........Can I reiterate that there will be no change to Admission Arrangements.



    I have noticed on the Silhill blog TGA claim they had no opposition when they affiliated to the diocese of Birmingham or agreed to partner St James or St Alphege. I can quite honestly say that if there was a consultation on these issues parents were unaware. TGA have a habit of burying any consultation. Do they honestly think parents would have agreed to the affiliation of sponsorship of these two schools if parents were aware of the proposal to change admission criteria. TGA's tactics have been underhand and more than a little dodgy!

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    1. I Agree totally unacceptable to use faith schools as feeder schools for non faith schools- it amounts to indirect religious discrimination.

      The secular society are interested in hearing from anyone affected so contact them at
      Admin@secularism.org.uk

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  8. This is disgraceful . I have 3 letters signed by Mrs J A Bexon Smith that gave assurances the admissions policy wouldn't be changed.

    1st July 2010 - "There would also be no change in the principles guiding pupil admissions, since we are determined to remain a successful comprehensive school serving the local population"

    30th Sept 2010 - "...Secretary of State has this week signed the Funding Agreement to allow Tudor Grange School to convert into an Academy from 1st October 2010........Can I reiterate that there will be no change to Admission Arrangements.

    22nd July 2011 - "Recently we have been asked to join the Diocese of Birmingham as a co-sponsor and take over the management of a school in the Black Country........our ethical standards, which are seenby the Diocesan team as being closely allied to theirs............we are seeking to become affiliated to the Diocese of Birmingham and I am enclosing a copy of the affiliation agreement for your information." (Note, no consultation - I remember feeling very uneasy when I received this letter, but it seemed we parents had no say over the matter.)

    This is teaching pupils duplicity and deceitfulness!

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  9. Solihull council has released this statement:

    Solihull Council is preparing its response to plans by three local Academies to change their admission arrangements.
    Although the Council no longer determines the admission arrangements for Academies, it is a consultee to the proposals put forward by Arden, Park Hall and Tudor Grange Academies.

    It is only through the consultation process that the Council can ensure that any concerns it may have are raised.
    However, the final decision rests with the Academy Trust and/or Governors.
    The proposals from each Academy are being examined in great detail, taking into account the likely impact on future pupils and their families, other schools, catchment areas, and the demographic profile of the areas in question.
    The report will then give a recommended response to each proposal.
    This report will be considered at the meeting of the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Joe Tildesley, on 11 February 2013.
    The meeting will be heard in public, and the report will be made available on the Council’s website on 4 February 2013.

    http://www.solihull.gov.uk/news/29360.htm

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  10. This is just the start of the fun. Academies will have greater freedom in future, not less. The idea of a having a local school to serve the local community will be lost.

    Of course, if you don't like Starbucks Academy down the road you can always shop around - maybe bus your children to the one run by the Scientologists*

    *insert weird minority group of your own choice here



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  11. Does Mrs Bexon Smith think we are completely stupid? They are presenting a model which assumes that numbers at St James will not increase as a result of this policy. Numbers at St James are already increasing - and the policy is still only in its consultation stage. If this goes ahead, even more parents will try to get their children into St James in order to secure a place at Tudor Grange. St James will fill up, and it will be just as hard to get your child into St James as it is to get them into St Alphege - ie impossible unless you are of the Church of England faith. St James will become elitist. Many parents fake religion to get their children into St Alphege. These people are now being rewarded for their hypocrisy, while those who refuse to take that path are being punished for their integrity. Mrs Bexon Smith seems to think she can pacify us with figures. She doesn't seem to realise that we are not just fighting this so we can be sure of a place for our own children. We are fighting it because it is discriminatory and divisive.

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  12. Mrs Bexon Smith has told parents on numerous occasions that admissions would not be changing. Now they are changing. She lies, lies and lies again. What kind of role model is she for the young people in her care?

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  13. "Many parents fake religion to get their children into St Alphege."

    I once worked for a bloke who made staff work late to edit the church newsletter so that he could impress the vicar (or whatever) and get his kids into the local church school.

    He wasn't a Christian; he was a Moron.

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  14. There is a facebook group of people campaigning against these changes and the way in which it is being conducted, I note many of the comments above from the members. They claim to be democratic which is why they have today barred me from the site which no message of why but I guess because I pose questions they don't like! Democracy and freedom of speech in action. I'm not the only person they have done this to. It consists of a core group of about 5 and around 200 members who generally seem to make no cotribution other to belong to the group. One of their main dislikes from the comments I read appears to be regarding faith and their connections to humanist groups. Nothing wrong with that - entitled to their opinions however so are others! Others site house prices as reasons and occassionally you get the enironmental impact raised. I just wonder what the main motives of some are and do they actually care or is it just another low polictal point to score?

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    1. My understanding is that a FB site and petition was set by a group of people who are specifically against the school's proposals. Other people are equally free to set up sites supporting the proposal if they wish. Hardly surprising if they get the hump? As far as I can see there are two main objections: lack of appropriate consultation by Tudor Grange (bordering on arrogance) and discrimination on the grounds of Faith. If you want to see some low political blows, get down to the civic centre on thursday night. There'll be finger-pointing about Academies like you've never seen.

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    2. If you look at my other point 14.48 you will see I am actually agreeing with a lot of the points raised by the group- I believe I was barred because I asked questions they did not want to answer. They are as guilty as anyone else and manipulate the data to their own means. When it is pointed out that other figures need to be taken into consideration they bar you - why ? Who knows- if I asked the question so will someone else. I do not wish to set up a group supporting the schools proposals as I have never said I do simply asked questions so I could make an informed decision instead of accepting what I was told by group leaders and following the herd. Clearly this group show the same arrogance that TGA are accused of!

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  15. I should add I actually agree that they have a point re the consultation process although the academy are within their rights to change the admission criteria and also believe that catchment children should be able to attend local schools

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  16. I am a member of the Facebook group and believe that it has provided the opportunity for frustrated people within the community to join together and discuss the subject in greater detail. The group has been set up for everyone to use, regardless of faith or race, with an aim to raise awareness of the plight of catchment children. It is these children that stand to be disadvantaged if the proposed admission changes go through. The only political statement I can recall reading on the Facebook site was yours, and I believe they were well within their right to remove this post. It appears to me that you joined the group in order to spread your political opinions, whilst the rest of the group strive towards preserving the Tudor Grange catchment area.

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  17. How dare you -I have not said anything policital and I am a floating voter at the moment with no allegiance to any party so I think you have the wrong person. I merely asked questions about the objectives of the group and queried the numbers. I think you are talking about a different member and one of the administrators of the group also on this blog talking about his "red side" and asking another member for their policital party status - note he's an administrator and he's still there. I was not involved in these posts and have not made policital comments - NOT ME!!

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  18. From the barred FB Tudor Grange Admissions member as per 16.46 (probably one of many as I queried the core groups stance on numbers) - it is a group for everyone - I'm not allowed there and did nothing wrong - I seriously wonder about the motives of some within the group and feel sorry for the other sheep conned into thinking they are we others who really care about their children.

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  19. Dear 'not so anonymous' 16.46. Your post was brought to my attention as it was considered to be referring to me. I can assure you that I am not 'anonymous 14.31' I would never post anonymously. I believe in the freedom of speech and am proud to priveleged to be part of a country that still allows this.
    Regarding the political statement ( and incidentally, this is all very petty), the administrator asked me outright what the English Democrats stance was, after previously declaring that he had a 'red core'. I answered the question and believe that my post was removed because it wasn't what he wanted to hear. I have screen shots of what was said and shall post them here, just to clarify. I wouldn't normally bother with petty tittle tattle such as this, but I am proud of my honesty and will always fight to uphold it, and my right to freedom of speech too.

    Lisa White - parent and community member.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. I would also like to take this opportunity to praise Tudor Grange Academy for the excellent contribution that they have made to our community, both in helpng our children achieve superb academic results through high expectations and also for the good pastoral care seen by myself, this academic year.

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  22. A bit of humour because I think we all need it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyos-M48B8U

    In case the link doesn't work, it's Peter Cook's biased judge sketch
    (complete)

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  23. and yes I know it should be privileged, not priveleged, but unfortunately I am only human and there is no editing option. Apologies.

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  24. There needs to be some reality here. Firstly, Tudor Grange is one of the most popular schools in the country. Over 1000 applications a year I understand. A lot of pupils are rejected every year. Therefore admissions at a popular school is always contentious! The issues are very simple. Tudor Grange has been asked to help a Primary school that has been struggling. They have responded positively and in doing so have an affiliation with the diocese. All seems reasonable to me. They then want to show their commitment and support by giving priority to two partner schools. Many families from one school in particular already get in and many others go to the private sector or Arden. So that should not change much. The issue is then the other school. It is obvious that some out of catchment children who may have got in previously may not get in, but as I said earlier that already happens. It seems entirely reasonable for the governors to prioritise parents of a school with your name over other out of catchment children. As for siblings that is a red herring. If they live in the catchment area it makes no difference! The school have explained the numbers clearly, numbers they got from SMBC. The comments here about lies are a disgrace. Circumstances change. Tudor Grange were asked to help, they did not walk on the other side as others may have done they helped! Good for them. I have followed comments on other media and have seen comments about house prices and children having to mix with others from a more deprived background. People who are motivated by such issues should be ashamed of themselves. It seems to me that they are doing what they have said they will always do, serve their community. Their local catchment area and others who have asked for help and that they have welcomed into their community with commitment, they did not have to do that! It s true that others who live further away might not get but hundreds don't get in every year. The fundamental problem is that it is one of the very best schools in the country with excess demand. A debate yes but with balance and respect, there is no room for NIMBY excesses or totally unwarranted personal attacks about lies etc.

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    1. With respect to Tudor Grange Academy St James, at no time was there any publicity about the proposed change in admission arrangements to the main TGA prior to the takeover. No-one would begrudge the expertise of TGA being used to help a struggling school, but this should not be on the basis of offering what amounts to a bribe for parents to send their children to a school which has previously failed to attract more than a handful of children on its own merits.

      In relation to the personal attacks and allegation of lying, I agree that this debate should be kept on the merits of the case for a change in admission arrangements. However, I feel that TGA has not done itself any favours by the way in which they have gone about this process (and it has not complied with the conditions of the Schools Admission Code which states that consultation must be for a minimum of 8 weeks and must take place between 1 November and 1 March of the year before those arrangements are to apply).

      TGA also have a track-record of making statements and then doing the opposite. An example is the consultation process for the Sixth Form when it was stated that 'there would be no minimum admission requirements to join the sixth form, though any course may have minimum requirements for entry suitable to that particular course'. In fact, for A-levels, TGA has imposed a requirement of 8 GCSEs including English and Maths with APS of 6.3 and a B in the subject to be studied - the toughest entrance requirement for any school in the borough, including independent schools. Another example of TGA becoming a selective school?

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    2. As I understand it the arrangements were published by SMBC on the 2nd of January. One day over eight weeks I think. With regard to sixth form Tudor Grange cannot accommodate all of it's intake and can fill up from it's own students, the vast majority of it's own students will meet the criteria anyway. If they lowered it and took lots more they would be criticised for that! They need to decide which stick to be beaten with! Lot's of professional jealousy methinks.

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    3. It is irrelevant when SMBC published the arrangements - it is the responsibility of TGA to do so and their website clearly shows that consultation arrangements were dated 8th January and so do not satisfy the eight week period.

      I agree that TGA Sixth Form can adopt any admission criteria that it wishes. Perhaps I did not make my point clearly enough. TGA said it would not impose a general admission requirement and it was on this basis that the consultation was agreed. During the selection process for the current Year 12, TGA then changed the rules for admission. It is this duplicity which I abhor. TGA says it is a school for the local community and then attempts to become selective whilst it thinks no-one is scrutinising its policies.

      My child now attends TGA Sixth Form but I would have been quite happy for my child to attend The Sixth Form College as another of my children did.

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  25. Well put, anonymous 09.43. I think you should post your name here and be proud of what you have said. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about Tudor Grange's support of St James school. That school also, is an important part of our community. I too am pleased that it will give children from the less affluent parts of Shirley a chance to achieve their best. This should be every child's right, not just the right of children whose parents can afford a house in the catchment area.
    I should add that we, as a family, moved into the Tudor Grange catchment area, so that our children would be able to attend Tudor Grange School. We have struggled financially to do this. Our house too, 'may' lose value. Our third child 'may' not get a place in our preferred school. But so be it; we all need to look at the bigger picture and understand that the academy, it seems, have a right to do what they are doing. They have my support, even though it may not be in MY families best interests. Even though I have agreed with many of the points put forward by the Facebook group, befote, I too was barred.
    Has anybody considered that if demand does eventually outnumber places, then the academy has room to expand? Has anybody considered the demographic change, caused by less families moving into the area, for the 'no longer there' first priority catchment area? These are points that need to be considered, but unfortunately have not been allowed on the group set up to offer a community voice. I find it ironic and worrying, that we as local parents cannot act as reasonable adults and debate the issue from both sides, without personal attacks and enforced silencing.

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    1. Lisa. Didn't want to remain anonymous just couldn't work out how to do it. Something modern and mysterious about being anonymous 9.43, I think I like it but will Michael do for now.

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    2. Thank godness for common sense and reason - thank you Michael and Lisa - Julie

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  26. This is a big issue for our community. It should not be hijacked by people who are upset that they have fallen out with someone on Facebook! It's not about house prices, selfishness or even people being 'snobs'.

    The changed proposed by Tudor Grange school are very significant. It is incredibly unusual for schools to bring in feeder schools as a higher priority than an established catchment. This sort of change deserves proper consultation and the school owe the community an explanation. I think we can all understand what they are doing with St James. However, I have yet to find anyone who can explain the partnership with St Alphege?

    Without a proper explanation there is bound to be disquiet, especially as the implications for children in the catchment do not appear to have been fully considered. The council have now published their report on the proposals, which shows that they share a lot of concerns that have been expressed by parents. These changes could deprive children living in the catchment of a place at the school and, as a result of this unfairness, the report recommends that the council should object to the change.

    I hope that the school will think deeply about the comments they have received from the local community and that, if they want to propose changes in the future, they do so in a more open and honest way. They must also ensure that, if they wish to nominate feeder schools that select on a particular faith basis, safeguards are put in place to ensure there cannot be discrimination in the selection process for the Academy.

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    1. It is not unusual at all for feeder schools to be a high priority. Many schools do not have a catchment area. One advantage is that it is harder to give false information. For example, false adresses or rich people taking out rentals then moving once admission is sorted. What may be true is it is unusual in Solihull. It can help in the continuity of education for children. Each method has advantages and disadvantages. What is clear is that Tudor Grange have no intention of excluding catchment area children. That is plain from what they have said! I suspect the council would complain about anything that Tudor Grange did, too many old sores. At the end of process the governors will make their decision. People can still object but will only succeed if they have not complied with the code of practice. From what I have seen they clearly haven't as named feeder schools are very clearly allowed. Simple disagreement is not grounds for an objection to be upheld.

      It is clear that the governors wish to prioritise catchment area AND the named feeder schools and this clearly possible for the forseeable future. I really do not understand the problem. Michael

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    2. Michael - have you read the Schools Admissions Code? It states that 'The selection of a feeder school or schools as an oversubscription criterion must be transparent and made on reasonable grounds.' and that an admissions authority must not 'prioritise children on the basis of their own or their parents’ past or current hobbies or activities (schools which have been designated as having a religious character may take account of religious activities, as laid out by the body or person representing the religion or religious denomination)'. There is certainly an arguable case that the naming of these two particular feeder schools is not reasonable on the grounds that it gives preference on the basis of religious activities since TGA does not have a religious character as defined in the Code.

      In relation to catchment areas, whilst it is true that not all English schools have a catchement area, the point is all the Solihull schools operate one. This means that if a child does not obtain a place in their catchment area school, they are very unlikely to be near enough to another school to obtain a place on distance. Children who live in Hockley Heath are an obvious example. The current system only works if all children will be certain of being able to attend their catchment area school. I disagree that 'this is clearly possible for the forseeable future'. Just because children from St Alphage not in the TGA catchment area have, in the past, gone to Arden or private schools does not mean that the parents would make the same choice in the future (and it must be taken into account that Arden's admission policy is changing so these children are less likely to be admitted to Arden). As for St James', nobody knows how many parents from outside the catchment area will decide to send their children to that school on the basis that it gives a guaranteed place at TGA. Even if it is accepted that St Alphage and St James' should be feeder schools (which I don't), it seems to me that is too great a risk to give priority to children from these schools over catchment area children. If TGA are really so sure that its projection is correct, why doesn't it place catchment children at Priority 2 and children from St Alphage and St James' at Priority 3?

      I would also add that we used to live in a London Borough where all but one school were Foundation schools (an earlier type of Academy) and all had a distance criterion rather than a catchment area. It was chaotic as it was very difficult to tell from year to year whether your child would be sufficiently close to your local school to obtain a place. There were also part of the borough which were not sufficiently close to any local school for children to be given a place at all (except in the one local authority school which was in special measures) and the result was that a completely new school had to be built for them. Catchment areas do have their disadvantages, but, in comparision to a distance only system, it is much better in my opinion.

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    3. I agree with you about the distance only system but that is not what is being proposed. The big problem with a catchment area in the context of a massively popular school is that there is a massive danger that effectively the ability to buy a house or rent a house at a certain price becomes the dominating factor and that is certainly very much the case here. Just talk to estate agents. They could well alter the priority order that is the purpose of the consultation. They are not proposing religious admissions it is feeder schools so, at best, the argument about discrimination is indirect. It seems to me that if catchment area and the feeder schools can be accommodated there would be less disagreement. Surely prioritising a feeder school that is actually sponsored by the secondary school in the same LA area is more than reasonable! Not all the Solihull schools operate a catchment area as there are faith schools such eg St Peters. In the long run I would extend the age range at St James and reduce the number in each year. This would bring it in line with many other Primary Schools and lessen the pressure on catchment area numbers. High demand and insufficient supply leads to higher prices. With a school as popular as Tudor Grange this will lead to high house prices and rents in the catchment area, surely this discriminates socio economically. In short a complex issue. But I for one admire Tudor Grange for embracing St James and the greater fairness it brings to those families in terms of being able to access one of the very best schools in the country!

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  27. Thank you Julie and nice to meet you Michael. For anyone who wants to comment in an open and honest way, there is an option below to click on, comment as , where you can link your name to a google account or other. Alternatively, just type your name underneath these comments.

    Anonymous 13.55, nice to hear from you. Yes it is a big issue for the ' whole' community. I am somewhat confused about the hijacking comment for this reason. Maybe you are referring to another issue, but I certainly see no hijacking on this blogger. This is a place where comments from both sides are allowed. Opinions may different to your own, that is life. I'd enjoy discussing this with in a friendly, open and honest manner as adults, setting a good example to our children. Please post again with your mame and we can do this.

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    1. Excuse the typos- I'm using a touch screen. :)

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    2. Spot on Lisa.

      Best regards. Michael

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  28. This is an attempt to offset the ever increasing number of Asian students, predominately from Muslim back grounds, such that a blance is retained between the white and Asian students. Only white Christian children are permitted in the primary schools and hence a desire to retain the balance. What we will see increasing ethnic polarisation in Alderbrook where the Percentage of Asians will significantly increase.

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    1. And Elvis Presley is still alive. Not to mention the moon landing being faked, Marylin Monroes death, president Kennedys assassination etc etc etc.

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    2. My children attend Tudor Grange Primary Academy St. James and we are Muslim. I believe the links between this primary academy and Tudor Grange Secondary Academy will benefit my children, even if the feeder link does not give them priority for places at the secondary academy, over the catchment children. It makes sense for them to be able to continue their education at Tudor Grange secondary academy, building on the foundations that they will have received at the proposed feeder school.

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    3. Why? What is so unique about these foundations that are provided at St James that are so different from the nearer schools from which students have traditionally been taken? My child went to another local primary and fits in just fine at Tudor grange academy Solihull. It is likely that any continuity benefit is slight and short lived, but that the problems of increased travel persist for all the school years.

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  29. I applaud Tudor Grange for taking on an under-performing school, which is within Solihull and well within walking distance. This has been well publicised and was also shown on their website in December, giving plenty of time for people to show their opposition or support. In order to become an Academy they had to agree to support an under-performing local school so this lies at the heart of what Academies have agreed to do in order to get Academy status. (Check out the DfE website). St James is a lovely warm, friendly school and has never recovered from its near-closure. Maybe this will put an end to the myth that Tudor Grange only does so well because it selects the most able children. Arden Academy also give priority to children from three faith schools yet no one has batted an eyelid about that so how can that argument stand. I agree that there needs to be a balance of views expressed but this was certainly not reflected by the local newspapers in January so shame on them. It is an Outstanding school and I hope people who support and trust this Academy will contact/write to Tudor Grange and all the Solihull leaders and local MP's. David

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  30. Is St James currently planning on extending to a two form entry school? This is great and will give some parents in Birmingham an excellent opportunity of accessing a great school in Solihull.

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    1. I would rather Solihull schools remained for Solihull taxpayers.

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  31. The recent change of school admissions policy at TGAS has led to a number of parents lodging complaints about the loss in house value or their disappointment that their child may not gain a place at the academy. While all valid points I feel the following issues have been ignored:-

    TGAS Admission Model number of assumptions;

    no increase in applications or expansion of these schools in its model

    The Academy does not control the numbers at these schools, as that is determined by the Diocese of Birmingham (Church of England).

    Affiliation with Diocese of Birmingham
    This prioritisation of St Alphege and St James has come about because of the affiliation of TGAS with the Diocese of Birmingham, who currently run 49 Primary schools and two secondary schools. Does this special relationship mean other faith schools will be considered in the future over local catchment area schools and is this leading the way for TGAS to become a faith academy?

    School Admissions Code as developed by Department of Education

    Schools Admissions Code;
    2.9 Admissions authorities (or in this the Academy Trust) must not refuse to admit a child solely because:
    they are not the faith of the school in the case of a faith school

    School Admissions Code; Equality Act 2010.
    An admissions authority (or in this the Academy Trust) must not discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief, arrangements and decisions it makes as to who is offered admissions as a pupil.

    School Admissions Code ; Human Rights Act 1998.
    The Act confers a right of access to education for all children although rights does not extend to securing a place at a particular school.
    However by limiting the number of places available to local schools the Academy Trust is making assumptions there will be places for all local children at other local schools. The is no evidence to show this to be the case
    If the Academy believes as stated on its website it can comfortably accommodate every catchment area child plus the additional numbers who might choose to come from St James and St Alphege Junior Schools then why change the admissions policy or why give St James and St Alphege School priority?
    Taking into consideration all of these points, I would like there to be an investigation into the actions of the school before any changes are made;
    1) Is the school complying with the School Admissions Code,
    2) Is there a conflict of interest by the Executive Principal?
    3) What is the long-term aim of the affiliation between Diocese of Birmingham and TGAS?

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  32. Anonymous 11.59

    A number of obvious points:

    Tudor Grange is consulting on giving priority to children from named feeder schools. They happen to be CofE schools. If this goes ahead they will give that priority regardless of faith. Indeed at St James there are many pupils who are not from CofE families perhaps even the majority. This is common practice around the country. This is because there are thousands of CofE primaries whose children cannot all go to CofE secondaries. So where feeder schools are used as admission criteria this already happens. They are clearly complying with the Admissions Code of Practice. Not everyone agrees but that is not really a relevant factor because not everyone disagrees.

    Although they say, and I believe they are right, that they can accommodate catchment area children and those who may apply from the two schools they clearly need to change the criteria as the current criteria would default to distance as the final criteria. The children from the two schools would then not be confident of getting a place. So a change is clearly need. What can be debated is the order of priority. If Tudor Grange are right about catchment area numbers for the forseeable future,and I think it is clear they are,then the priority order does not make any difference at all !

    As the new sponsors of St James it is Tudor Grange who are responsible for the admissions numbers not the Diocese.

    Finally the issue of conflict of interest. The executive principal cannot make unilateral decisions! They are accountable to their board of governors as any chief executive. The would be foolish not listen to professional advice. But more fundamentally I don't understand the conflict. Between what and what? This phrase is just another of the meaningless slogans, conflict of interest, a two tier system, serving the community. In other words they are thrown out as a phrase that is supposed to mean something that when scratched at usually mean nothing at all.

    Michael

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    1. Michael

      The conflict of interest point was not just thrown in there as a meaningless slogan. The statement was made because the Executive Principal of Tudor Grange is also a trustee of the Diocese of Birmingham, hence the conflict of interest. How can that indidvidual serve the best interests of both organisations in a fair and equitable manner.

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    2. Councillors serve on governing bodies and there are sometimes disagreements between schools and councils, what is the difference? How can the individual serve the best interests of both organisations in a fair and equitable manner? Answer - very, very easily it simply requires integrity and common sense. You seem to assume the best interests of both organisations differ greatly. I don't see it. It is also clear that one is an Executive role and one is a voluntary Non-Executive role, different roles and different functions. Now if the Executive Principal of Tudor Grange was also the Chair of Tudor Grange you would have a point.

      Michael

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  33. Michael and lisa, what fantastic comments. The reality is that you only have to see the amount of children coming on buses from outside of Solihull, that people already abuse the catchment area system for not only TGA but all of our schools and colleges.

    It is not hard to rent a house within the catchment area for six months, apply for the required school, then move once you have placement. Maybe instead of worrying about St James, which intends to only have a one class entry eventually, and a tiny amount from St Alphege's they should lobby that to qualify for catchment area status, you should live within the bounderies for a number of years before being guaranteed a place?

    Also after some of the ridiculous remarks that anyone living outside of Hillfields is undesireable. Maybe less parents will apply to TGA for fear of their children mixing with the children of snobs and bigots.

    How about putting all this energy into creating fantastic schools throughout our borough, so all of our children have the chance of a good education and a brighter future?



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  34. 14.03

    Thank you. You are also exactly right. The catchment area system is so easy to abuse. It is easier for those with a large bank balance. At least with a feeder school it is easy to verify that they attend the school. Most of the criticism does not stand up to any detailed analysis. However, I do understand initial fears if the situation is not clear. The loudest critics probably have a particular axe to grind. I would suggest there are four axes, the humanist axe that will do anything to have a go at the church for any reason. Beware secular fundamentalists!! They are just as dangerous as religious fundamentalists. The second axe is the house price axe. This axe is wielded for many reasons, airports, trains, parking, mobile phone masts, and the latest manifestation school admissions. The third is the social bigotry axe. All of these have been seen clearly in various media.the fourth axe is what I will call the British Tesco axe which is to snipe at or criticise success. For years people ave criticised Tudor Grange for being selective and elitist. They have made a massive success of a very tough project in Worcester and and have now embraced St James. Not the obvious actions of an elitist I'm alright Jack organisation. It is crystal clear that families from the proposed schools AND the catchment area will get in for the foreseeable future. Much ado about nothing in the winter of their discontent!

    Michael

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    1. Let's suppose that St James proposed admissions criteria are accepted. Family A live near St James and their child gets a place. Family A move to Birmingham and because St James gives priority to siblings they continue to get places for siblings. All of the children from family A then get top priority for Tudor Grange despite living in Birmingham. Family B live just outside Tudor Grange catchment and the eldest child gained a place in the demographic dip of 11 yr olds that is just coming to an end. The number of 11 yr olds is increasing, places awarded to St James and removal of the siblings criteria mean they no longer gain places for the other children in the family despite the fact that they never cheated the system and still live locally. Is this fair? The issue here is that Tudor Grange have made a change that was not part of the consultation and is not supported by evidence. (The 2012 FOI data is surely more reliable than anecdotal evidence as the anecdotal evidence does not indicate whether those children gained places under the criterion that has been removed or the other criteria that remain unchanged. Similarly it is odd to suggest that the council can accurately predict numbers five years' hence but their datasets gathered at the time of application are flawed.) Those who would have opposed the removal of the siblings criterion had no chance to voice their opinion. The change is not well considered and will have a disproportionate affect on families who have not perpetuated any fraud. Nor will it ensure that the school serves the local children. I am concerned that Tudor Grange portrayed the removal of the siblings criteria as a way of ensuring additional spaces were available for catchment children. Given that the siblings criteria is given a lower priority than catchment this is not true and either indicates a worrying lack of understanding by those setting the policy or an intent to misinform. I am increasingly concerned by the way in which decisions appear to be made by the leadership team with either an inability to understand, or a simple disregard for the consequences of their decisions.

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  35. The reason for the change is that Tudor Grange want to ensure that most of their pupils come from Solihull, there are on average 60 places that are given by Solihull MBC to children at Tudor Grange from Birmingham, mainly Hall Green. St James's maximum intake for year 6 is 30, currently 18, so there are 12 places of the 60 taken up, and St Alphege always has and always will be oversubscribed because it is an excellent school. Roughly half of St Alphege children go on to TG.

    Many children leave St Alphege in year 6 and go to private schools, or the likes of Kings Edwards, Stratford etc. There is not a snowballs chance in hell of all children from St Alphege, going to or wanting to go to Tudor Grange.

    People are getting unnecessarily worked up over this issue.

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    1. St James' maximimum intake is 60, not 30:

      http://www.stjames.tgacademy.org.uk/about-us-2/admissions-3/

      Analysing the figures for the 2012 intake at TGA, the breakdown of postcodes is as follows:

      B91 (Solihull) 131
      B90 (Shirley) 88
      B94 (Hockley Heath) 25
      B92 (Olton) 3
      CV7 (Coventry) 1

      No Hall Green pupils (or indeed other Birningham students) at all. In fact, the losers from the proposed changes to the admission rules are pupils who live in the B90 area who currently qualify on distance.

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    2. You are right the current maximum number is 60. However, there are a lot less than thirty in each year group. Parents at St James have already been told of plans to reduce the number and extend the age range to reception upwards. There are lots of Birmingham students at Tudor Grange. Special needs students with statements cover some. However, one of the major problems is temporary adresses to get in then move back or away and siblings get in in following years. I am afraid to say that it is often the Asian community who exploit this mechanism, but not exclusively.

      If you are right about these post codes then you must have accessed information that is held on an organisational data base. Is this ethical?

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    3. Nevertheless,the admission number from St James is currently 60 and this would feed forward for at least four years into the secondary system.

      On the anecdotal evidence of 'lots of Birmingham studnets', are you suggesting that the 2012 intake is not representative? If so, you would be incorrect. There are also a small number of special needs pupils at TGA so it is very unlikely that Birmingham children would be admitted on that basis. Are you confusing TGA with Alderbrook?

      Details of the postcodes and previous schools of the 2012 intake are in the public domain under a freedom of information request. There is a lot of information (not just urban myth - including the 'it's mainly Asians who try to beat the system' one) available about TGA to those who care to find it.

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    4. St James. admission at year 1 is 60, year 6 is one class of 30, there would have to be a major capital spend to give the school capacity to have 60 in each year up to year 6. They do not have the capacity.
      there is no anecdotal evidence of Birmingham students it is a fact, my kids are at TG and I know and they know there are lots of kids from Birmingham at TG. see how many kids get off the bus in Hall Green in TG uniform. if you had anything to do with the school you would know, rather than make up spurious data to support your argument.

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  36. 13.59

    You are absolutely right!

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  37. 15.18 I used the word often not mainly! I am not confusing TG with Alderbrook. Make a freedom of information request and it will be confirmed. Birmingham allows statemented students to name whatever school they want. This is how it is done. I am suggesting that a lot of adresses on admission change after admission! This is very common amongst very popular schools with catchment areas. It is the easiest criteria to get round if you have the right contacts and a big enough bank account. My daughter has just left TG when I showed her what you had written about Birmingham Students she just laughed.

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  38. Surely there is a question of what Tudor Grange stands to gain by an improvement of the failing primary school in Shirley. If there is any financial benefit gained by the change of admissions policy rather than simply their management experience that is surely ethically wrong?

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    1. Having read the comments above and the inclusion of the word "ethically" I am really shocked. Is it at all possible that this is much simpler. I work in a senior position in education and I heard a fantastic talk by the head of Tudor Grange Solihull. She was challenged at that time as to what they had to gain from their involvement at a challenging secondary school in Worcester. Her response was clear and simple. That her governors really believed that every child in the country deserves a fantastic education and that when they were asked to support a school in Worcester they felt a moral responsibility to say yes. She added that they really believed that their culture and ethos could be transferred through sponsorship and governance. At that talk she showed genuine regret that for a number of reasons that they had been unable to work with schools in Solihull.

      At that presentation there was no message of selfishness whatsoever and the professional audience were both impressed and inspired. It is entirely possible that the motivation could be simply to contribute to the "improvement of the failing primary in Shirley". She also said very clearly that they "nailed their colours to the mast" and that by giving their name to the school they accepted accountability and full responsibility for that schools performance. It was a clear demonstration of commitment, confidence and courage. It appears they have done exactly the same at the Primary School in Shirley. If the automatic assumption is some sort of gain the ethical issue then the real problem is those who make the assumption.

      As an experienced educationalist I would suggest that regardless of whether you agree or disagree with actions or proposals to imply unethical motives is a long way from the truth. I and a very large number of senior professionals in education have no doubt that these are serious professional people with a genuine moral purpose. I totally understand that people may be concerned about actions and. the impact on individuals and/or families and those concerns should be voiced loudly. If the Tudor Grange is the school that it professes to be they should definitely listen. However, to suggest that the motivations are selfish or cynical are way off the mark and dare I say unethical !

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    2. Can you elaborate on the efforts Tudor Grange made to work with schools in Solihull? Given their reputation I would have thought that schools would be queuing up to get the benefit of their expertise to raise their own standards. I remain puzzled as to why they have partnered with a school in Worcester when there are surely schools in Chelmsley Wood or Birmingham that need help just as much if not more. Looking at the attainment data on the council website for the area where St James is located, the children there achieve key stage 4 results that are better than the national average and only just under the Solihull average. The same is sadly not true for Chelmsley Wood, or a number of other wards in North Solihull. I'm sure the Head wants to improve standards, but I can't understand why they don't seem to be helping the schools that need them most.

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  39. My child attends St James - and I would not consider listing Tudor Grange as one of my secondary choices eventhough I am in the catchment for Tudor Grange. As parents of children at St James - we did not know of the plans of becoming academy - it is indeed ridiculous to assume that people choose St James because of easier transfer to Tudor Grange - this may be the case for some but not all.

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    1. One of the nice things about St James was the small class sizes and the community spirit between teachers and children. From what I've heard, Tudor Grange are just to rapidly expand the school for their own financial benefit, removing the best aspects of the old school.

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    2. Their own financial benefit???

      Where does this nonsense come from? Does anyone really think money could be syphoned from a small primary school to a large secondary? I despair !

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    3. I think the previous post meant Tudor Grange are trying to rapidly expand St James because there are financial, and other, disadvantages to running a school that is half empty. The financial burden of running a half empty school was one of the reasons the council wanted to close it down before. I don't think Tudor Grange Solihull will benefit financially from St James filling the empty spaces, but it will benefit St James and therefore the Tudor Grange Multi Academy Trust. St James does need to fill those empty spaces, but I don't think using the admissions system is the right way to attract parents. I know of several children who transferred to St James after the feeder school link was announced, so there definitely are parents who will chose St James just on the basis of getting an assured place at Tudor Grange Academy.

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    4. It's very obvious now that Tudor Grange is a 'faith lite' academy. It has an affiliation with the Diocese of Bham, its exec principal Jennifer Bexon-Smith sits on the Diocese of Bham's Education Board and the chair of governors Dr Peter Rock, is a lay preacher at the Parich of St Alphege. These are all facts in the public domain. They don't hide the fact that they promote a Christian ethos within the school. Academies are getting very competitive, they want to flex their academic muscles and expand. It's the only way to gain economies of scale and attract big money sponsors. What better way to do this than team up with an organisation that has a ready-made group of schools to foster - the Diocese of Bham. It also helps the Diocese as they are firmly at the bottom of the national Diocese league table in terms of liquidity - they're bankrupt. Academies have all the money. It's a match made....in heaven!! Problem is, academies are creating greed, corruption and embezzlement. Like all academies, Tudor Grange has hidden agendas. Beware.

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