Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Admission row primary will bid to drop church link

ONE of two primary schools at the centre of a row about admissions at Tudor Grange Academy is to bid to drop a key Church of England link.

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Tudor Grange Primary Academy St James in Shirley would consult to remove a demand that parents are practising Church of England worshippers.

Along with St Alphege C E Junior School, pupils would get priority over catchment area children when places are allocated for Tudor Grange Academy for September 2014.

This has angered some parents who say it gives an unfair advantage to CofE pupils to get into the academy, which is not a faith school.

The St James plan was revealed in a letter from the Diocese of Birmingham to the British HumanistAssociation (BHA), which said the Tudor Grange plan could breach equality laws.

Diocese director of education Jackie Hughes said: “St James’s will in due course begin consulting on changing its admission policy in order to remove Church of England practice as a criterion.”

Tudor Grange said it wanted to change its admissions policy as it has a partnership with St Alphege and is the sponsor of Tudor Grange Primary.

But BHA head of public affairs Pavan Dhaliwal said the St James plan “isn't stated in the consultation anywhere  (thereby denying parents important information which would help them respond), hasn't yet been  decided, and even once it is decided, will take six years to filter through to the secondary”.

He said Tudor Grange Academy: “This is the first time we have heard of a school without a religious character effectively giving  preference to children whose parents are religious.”

The plans are “very possibly unlawful” under the 2010 Equality Act, he told the school.

Mrs Hughes, responding for the school, said those with concerns “appear not to have fully understood” the relationship between the three schools.

She said: “A school without a designated religious character is not prevented from having a school with a religious character as a feeder school.

“Indeed such a position is commonplace in England where Church of  England primary schools commonly feed a local secondary school, whatever its character and indeed whatever its category.”

There are plans to make both primaries feeder schools and it is “somewhat precipitous and ill advised to be alleging discrimination or unlawful conduct” she said.

The school has said therewill be enough places for all catchment children until at least 2019. Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council has objected to the plan.

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  1. St James has not been a popular school and has therefore taken in all applicants . Any or even the majority have no religious affiliation. Tudor Grange are proposing to prioritise children from St James regardless of religious affiliation!. Many non christian parents choose a faith school because of it's ethos not because of there own religion. Nationally there are any village CofE primary schools who have priority for admission to non denominational secondaries. In other words the precedent is overwhelming. The BHA will take any opportunity to jump on a bandwagon. if they have never heard of this they must be deaf! It is crystal clear that the priority will be children at the school not their religious affiliation. The indirect discrimination argument is extremely tenuous. I would not want to use my money to risk the costs of that legal argument!


  2. This shows just how ill conceived and badly communicated the Tudor Grange proposals are. Their plan to avoid religious discrimination for secondary school admissions is to change the over-subscription criteria at St James - but it's left to the British Humanist Association to find this out.

    This situation is not good for anyone. Children whose parents chose St James because of the religious character of the school will lose out. Children whose parents did not chose St James because they are not part of the Church of England will also lose out.

    I have heard that more than 80 families have contacted St James to try to transfer into the school to take advantage of the proposed arrangements.

    Tudor Grange need to have a serious rethink about their plans.

  3. 80 families trying to take advantage of the proposed arrangements! Must be really unpopular then! If that is the evidence it seems to me that they have got something right somewhere!!

  4. Even if the admission criteria to St James' is changed, there does not seem to be any suggestion that it will not continue to be a school with a 'Christian ethos' as stated on its website. Since some parents who have other religious beliefs and those which have no religious beliefs may not wish their children to attend such a school, designating St James' as a feeder school is still discriminatory.

    Whilst it is possible for a non-religious school to have religious feeder schools (Arden, for example, is proposing to have a mix of religious and non-religious schools as feeders), the point is that the only feeder schools being proposed by TGA are religious schools.

  5. So the solution might be to abandon the catchment area completely and go to a mix of feeder schools. Interesting!

  6. It is not necessary to abandon the catchment area in order to have a mix of feeder schools. Arden is prioritising children who both live in its catchment area and attend feeder schools (so not St Alphage, for example).

    1. I think you'll find that many St Alphedge children live in TGA catchment anyway and some go to TGA but with many choosing other options even though in catchment like private or grammar schools

  7. Take the 'faith' argument out (even though I personally think it's at play!) TGA is turning against those local families and other schools who have helped make it a success. Like any 'business' which TGA now is, it is making a fundamental mistake by turning against it's loyal 'customers' in favour of a short term, blinkered strategy. Yes, support other struggling schools (st alphege isn't by the way!) but do it in a positive way rather than this mess. A child who lives as far away as Hall Green woud have priority over a sibling living 0.5miles away based purely on faith. Surely that can't be right for a 'non faith' school?

  8. Mark. TGA did not ask to support St James they were asked! I just do not understand your logic at all. I assume 0.5 miles away s in the catchment area, if it is they have said catchment area children will get in. If they are not in the catchment area then that is a system that was set up by SMBC. I don't see it as a mess and I don't follow your argument.

    1. Hi Anonymous - The system set up by the council indeed worked well and is fair. What TGA are proposing is to place 2 'selected' schools above that system which will have a massive repercussion on the entire admission process for ALL schools locally. It will be interesting see to which way the council vote tonight? TG is an Academy and is effectively outside of the councils control so even then, they could continue. Throughout the Academy process to gain parents support, the school promised not to change the admission policy so to rely on 'catchment children will get in' comments would be naive. As I said, I support TG's help for St James but why at the cost to my own child and why St Alphege which is an excellent school? The big question which TGA haven't answered is WHY are they doing this? This whole 'mess' is such a shame as it deflects from the school's excellent reputation and we should be celebrating its achievements, not debating it! I hope this helps explain some of the reasons why I and hundreds of parents, head teachers, governors and hopefully SMBC are opposed.

  9. Hi Mark. the council will vote against it. However, if Tudor Grange proposed keeping Tuesday as Tuesday they would probably vote against it. If Tudor Grange trust their numbers (and I think they are right) all they have to do is put catchment area above feeder schools. I simply do not see the "massive repercussions of this" Tudor Grange already takes a significant number from outside the catchment area. The reason why they would want to prioritise St James is obvious and reasonable. Surely they are wanting to guarantee parents continuity within the organisation. St James and TGA are now part of the same legal organisation which I think is The Tudor Grange Academy Trust. The trust employs all the staff. In other words they can provide continuous education from reception to sixth form for parents that choose to do so. Only people with other baggage could see that as unreasonable. I agree that the case for St Alphege is less obvious if they are not a formal member of the TG Academy trust. I suspect the governors will reflect on that after the consultation has ended. As I understand it Tudor grange will propose extending the age range at St James to provide the all through education. If they do, and I am are they will, this will lower the proposed feeder numbers further as they will not be able to expand the building. People should remember that Solihull MBC wanted to close St James. The Headteachers and governors in Solihulll were by and large deafening silent on that issue including the Head and Governors at Light Hall who were allegedly a partner secondary to St James. My daughter recently left Tudor Grange and I am offended by some of the nasty, spiteful and offensive comments I have read on this issue. By all
    means debate the admissions issues but to suggest massive implications is guilding the lily at best and hysterical exaggeration at it's worst.

    1. Hello Anonymous. It appears we actually agree on a couple of points. Firstly that the proposed changes are not right as you state 'all they have to do is put catchment area above feeder schools', unless we object they will go through unopposed. Secondly the inclusion of St Alphege is at best bizarre the only common denominator here is religion.
      If you refer back to the correspondence supplied by the school on the process to become an Academy and the agreement with the Diocese, you will read that throughout it quoted no significant changes will take place to the way in which the school would be run.
      The objections I have are numerous. To sweep my opinions aside as baggage, hysterical and exaggerated is quite amusing. This only fuels my enthusiasm to do everything I can to ensure the younger school children of Solihull have a fair chance to experience the education your daughter did. If we fail, then at least we know we had the courage to stand up and be counted rather than hide and hope they got the numbers right!

    2. When the school became an Academy in 2010 they would have no idea whatsoever that they would be asked to work with St James. Therefore I have no doubt whatsoever that the statements made at that time were absolutely honest so to harp back to that implies that they should set the school in aspic. Things change if it were not so there would be no divorces in this country. It does not mean every divorcee was lying or misleading at their wedding. They do have a partnership with St Alphege so the reason for including them is less strong but certainly not totally bizarre. I totally agree that genuine concerns about admissions should be voiced, but there have been excesses. The secular fundamentalists have had their platform, they are as odd as religious fundamentalists. I also stand by my point that the use of the term "massive repercussions" is quite ridiculous.

      Balance and respectful debate is what is needed this is the best way to get a sensible outcome.

    3. if it ain't broke.....