Sunday, 3 February 2013

Council opposes "destabilising" Tudor Grange plan

SOLIHULL Metropolitan Borough Council is set to object to “destabilising” plans to change Tudor Grange Academy’s admission policy.

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

The authority is to oppose the school’s plans to give priority to children from two primary schools over catchment area children.

The school can set its own admission policy after becoming an academy in 2010, removing it from council control.

The council is also set to object to a plan by Arden school – also an academy – to give priority to children of staff over catchment area children.

A report expected to beapproved by cabinet member for children & young people Joe Tildesley on Monday February 11 spells out the objections to the Tudor Grange plan.

It says: “Admissions arrangements in Solihull have worked very successfully for many years without complaint from schools or the local community.

“The system of catchment areas presently provides a safety net that ensures that all children have a high priority to attend their local catchment school.

“The proposal by Tudor Grange unilaterally moves away from this by introducing the feeder school arrangement ahead of children living within the catchment area.

“The council is concerned that this could destabilise the present arrangements, and could ultimately result in some children in the future being unable to secure a place in a local school.

“Children living in the Hockley Heath, Blythe and Tidbury Green areas should be noted as particularly at risk.”

The school wants pupils at St Alphege C E Infant and Junior Schools and Tudor Grange Primary Academy St James in Shirley to get preference. It has a partnership with St Alphege and is the sponsor of Tudor Grange Primary.

The report says the council is concerned the change could be replicated by other secondary schools.

The school has said concerns about children not being able to get a place are “groundless” as there are currently more than enough places for catchment area children.

A further 50 children attend the primaries but do not live in the catchment area and the school said it will able “comfortably accommodate every catchment area child” to at least 2019.

The council accepted this but said problems for catchment area “cannot be ruled out” in the future.

The report says: “In the longer term, as the catchment cohorts increase, there is a risk that siblings could not be offered places.

“There could also be a risk to those catchment children living furthest away from the school. This could affect, in particular, the areas of Hockley Heath and Tidbury Green.”

Any preference for the two primaries must come after catchment area places are allocated, it said.

And it said of the Arden plan: “The addition of children of school staff as a priority is unlikely to have a significant impact on the availability of places at the school, the local authority would suggest that such children should only be a priority after catchment children.”

Both plans are being consulted on here (Tudor Grange) and here (Arden).

25 comments:

  1. I am pleased that Solihull Councils have validated parents concerns that the Tudor Grange proposals could leave children in the catchment without a place at the school.

    Tudor Grange have still not explained why they proposed these changes, particularly regarding the partnership with St Alphege.

    It is disappointing that, instead of properly engaging with parents, they tried to dismiss legitimate concerns as 'groundless'.

    This is not the right way for a publicly funded body to run a consultation.

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  2. A very sensible response to the TGA proposals.

    It seems to me that there are wider issues which should be addressed about the accountability of the school to its local community. At least when Solihull Council was responsible for the school there was a chance for the public to attend council meetings and give their points of view. The new system seems to be completely behind closed doors.

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  3. The whole debate is very interesting. Slower than other authorities (and almost under the radar) schools in Solihull are becoming academies with very little understanding or objection from the public. Now that the implications are being felt the opposition begins. It would be better if the bulk of the objections to Tudor Grange were rooted fairness and objectivity but they seem to be more than a little subjective and missing the bigger picture.
    The fact that St James' school slipped into Tudor Grange's chain came very fast and with little objection too. Please don't place the blame for any of this on the Local Authorities doorstep, however, as once a school decides to 'academise' they have very little say in the matter.

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  4. Just to add the above post - is the objection to the new admissions policy to do with house prices and mobility? adding a religious perspective to a non-denominational school or one rooted in social class? If I were Headteacher at any of the other (very good) secondary schools I would feel more than a little upset that so many saw them as second class to Tudor Grange! Alderbrook is just next door and a brilliant school.

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  5. This issue has been picked up by the British Humanist Association. Apparently the head of Tudor Grange School is also a trustee for the Diocese of Birmingham Educational Trust:

    http://humanism.org.uk/2013/02/04/non-religious-academy-in-solihull-defers-to-church-in-proposing-faith-based-admissions-criteria/

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    1. This issue has also been picked up by the monster raving looney party and will be discussed at the mad hatters tea party!

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    2. It has also been picked up by the BBC:

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-21335825

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  6. I have worked in education in the midlands for many years although not in Solihull . Solihull MBC has opposed many things that Tudor Grange have tried to do. This even goes back to Specialist School Status in the mid nineties. They opposed the schools efforts to establish a sixth form for many years. It is also well known that they appeared not to oppose the recent sixth form plans but then wrote opposing in an underhand manner. In short they will find a reason to oppose anything that Tudor Grange tries to do. So there current response is sadly, entirely predictable. Solihull MBC tried, unsuccessfully to close St James school. Since then Tudor Grange has asked to help and the school is now sponsored by Tudor Grange who have affiliated to the Diocese of Birmingham. It is obvious and right that the governors should prioritise admissions from St James. This can easily be accommodated without affecting catchment area. What is more reasonable to debate is the position of St Alphege. It is sensible to have a successful primary partner in this project but debatable whethervthis should extend to admissions priority if the are not formally part of the Tudor Grange Multiple Academy Trust. The Tudor Grange Sponsorship of a school in Worcester which was one of the worst in the country has been an outstanding success. Tudor Grange actually tried to support struggling schools in Solihull but these initial plans were stopped by politicians in Solihull. As an informed outsider they are clearly prophets in their own country! Yes there are really good schools in South Solihull and Alderbrook is one of them. However, Tudor Grange has a national and international reputation that is truly outstanding. Solihull should be proud of this instead of behaving in the way they do. It also seems that there is a strong and direct relationship between success at Tudor Grange and their involvement with the council. Unfortunately this is an inverse relationship. The less contact the better they do. I wonder why?

    I think the priority of St James is right, professionally and ethically. It can be achieved without threatening catchment area children. As a supportive outsider I would suggest that the case for St Alphege is there but much less clear, and Tudor Grange may want to think careful on that one before their final decision is made. I am sure they will. As for the head being asked to be a trustee on the Diocesan Board, an unpaid post, then well done to Diocese for getting free access to an outstanding source of high quality advice. Hell will probably freeze over before Solihull MBC would even consider doing the same. Tudor Grange were asked to help St James and they agreed when others had wanted to discard them. It was not them being predatory. To say yes and show real commitment to them seems like a Christian way to behave, the humanists would have a different perspective no doubt.

    Michael

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    1. Michael makes a compelling arguement above although it does feel like a bit of a go at Solihull MBC. I think a poster above that made the very valid point that as an Academy Tudor Grange are somewhat beyond the reach of Solihull MBC's influence now regardless of past history.
      Despite the air of objectivity above it needs pointing out that Solihull's education dept and the schools are all excellent and have a great track record - which is where all this popularity comes from.
      Solihull didn't simply try to shut St James' school and Tudor Grange rode in to 'rescue' it. The whole, sorry situation is a long and complicated one and rooted in many factors such as fluctuating birth rates.
      A lot of Solihull schools 'fill up' with Birmingham pupils. Funding in Solihull is a lot lower than Birmingham per pupil and yet Shirley schools fill with Birmingham pupils but not with Birmingham funding. It is probably fair to say that Birmingham schools are not filling up with Solihull children.
      It would be interesting to see how many of the pupils at St James or St Alphege hold Solihull addresses but that is ultimately a red herring.
      Why didn't they close St James school - because it would have taken away a faith school option in the locality. It is open because of its Christian ethos & nature.
      Is it unfortunate coincidence that the two 'favoured' primaries will have a CE faith angle? Probably but this won't stop the Humanists etc. from wanting a say.
      WHY Tudor Grange are 'helping' St James is also of interest. It was a 2 class junior school. My understanding is that they want to make it a 1 class infant and junior school.
      It DOES make sense to give pupils a 'seamless' education and nobody can knock Tudor Grange for trying to offer that but my take is that Michael's impression of altruism is a little naive.
      The Tudor Grange promise will no doubt attract a number of parents and leave other local schools in the position that St James found itself a few years ago. What goes around, comes around or that's free markets or whatever else you'd say about that it still leaves another potential issue.
      My worry is that in a few years time the only choice of schools will be huge linked chains in Solihull as non affiliated schools struggle to maintain their independence. The Education part of Solihull MBC will be extinct and what makes Solihull an enviable education system will have been lost in translation.
      We simply need a balanced viewpoint and at least Michaels has an air of reason about it.

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    2. Well said, Michael

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  7. Tudor Grange was an outstanding school long before it became an Academy and it is just one of many excellent schools in Solihull. It would be entirely wrong to suggest that it has only been successful because it has escaped from Solihull Council control.

    I am delighted that the Council have recognised the inherent unfairness in these proposals. As a member of the Church of England I also welcome the observations of the British Humanist Society. I think there is a real risk that the proposed arrangement will result in discrimination, which I don't think this is either fair or Christian.

    Although I see nothing wrong with the Head of Tudor Grange School having a position with the Diocese of Birmingham the potential for conflict of interest here is significant.

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  8. Thank you for the two intelligent and balanced contributions from above. I agree with much of what 19.57 has to say. However, I disagree with end analysis. There are rapidly rising rolls in the years ahead. You are also right about the demand from Birmingham. This is why,at this time, it is possible for St James to succeed without having inevitable effects on others. But we do have to recognise there is a much more Market element to our public services.

    Secondly, I am not suggesting that Tudor Grange became outstanding since it became an Academy. I am saying it became outstanding because of it's hunger to improve and look outwards. Look at it's last OFSTED report. It has battled with the council on many issues even when it was a LA school. It has been a stone in the shoe. Excellence comes from a desire to move forward and change. SMBC view is "if it is not broken don't mend it". Those who strive for excellence and world class performance know that there are always improvement opportunities. A lot of credit should go to their governors who must have a strong influence after all they appoint and employ the Head. As I understand it they have had the same chair of governors since the late 1980's, he must be bit like Alex Ferguson!! What I am saying is engage with them positively and debate rationally, I would be shocked if they did not listen. They would not be where they are if they never listened to anybody. They must have done a lot of listening and learning. Probably outside Solihull! It would be great if this debate could move on from the polarised rants of some of the earlier posts. I am not anti SMBC, I just know that Local Authorities played a fantastic role in the twentieth century in ensuring everybody had a good education. When the issue is providing excellence in a globally competitive world it requires a different approach!

    Michael

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    1. Hi Michael 19:57 here! I only wonder how much of this reasoned and balanced debate will make it into the media - both locally and wider? Thanks for the second response.

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  9. The problem is really that ST James (whether religious or not) is not within the current catchment area for TGA. Places at TGA primary academy are filling up and will definitely start to fill up if the policy gets the go ahead which means that the local catchment will not lose only 50 places between St Alphege and St James but will lose potentially 50 places (assuming not all parents choose TGA)to each school therefore displacing some of the catchment children. And as children in Year 4 at Sharmans Cross and other local schools have already started moving to St James from their current schools to ensure a place at TGA should the policy come into effect, then catcment area children will no longer have places allocated from 2015 NOT 2019 as is being suggested by the council. At least the local schools that Arden are proposing are all local and in the current catchment area, the admissions policy just strengthens it (from what an Arden parent has told me).

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  10. Solihull MP Lorely Burt sent The Silhillian this statement:

    "I have been inundated with letters over the last couple of weeks regarding the proposed changes to admissions policy of Tudor Grange Academy, so I thought I'd use my slot in these pages to share with you what I know so far.

    You may have read that Tudor Grange has announced its intention to give a higher priority to children from two Church of England primary feeder schools, St Alphege and St James'. Parents both inside and outside the catchment area are angry because a cloud of uncertainty has been placed over the future education of their children.

    This is especially galling for parents who have moved to the catchment area, causing financial stress, to be able to send their children to the school.

    There are, however, 2 ways of looking at this problem. The first is the principle of selection to a school by reasons other than proximity to the school. The Liberal Democrats are very uneasy about this, and I can find nowhere in the Coalition Agreement where it says we are going to introduce selection in this way.

    Secondly there are the practical repercussions, which is obviously of great importance to parents.

    Correspondence between myself and the Local Authority offers a much better outcome here. If you take St Alphege Primary School, the forecast is that this will lead to only 1-5 additional children going to Tudor Grange. For St James, there are only 12 children at present in Year 6, but of course this will not be the case in the future as parents will see sending their children to St James' as a route for their children to gain entry to Tudor Grange.

    But, for those parents who live in the catchment area worried about their children's immediate prospects, there are sufficient places to ensure that all children living in the Tudor Grange catchment area will be offered a place. In fact, the number of children living within the catchment plus those predicted to go from the two new feeder schools still falls far short of the total places available.

    So it's good news for children living in the catchment, but it is less good news for those outside the catchment fighting for a smaller number of places.

    Now I'm all for excellent schools holding out a helping hand to schools not performing as well as they might, but I do worry about introducing new criteria into an established system without notice for parents who have sacrificed greatly to be able to send their children to a good school. Children who live outside the catchment area but close to Tudor Grange may now not be offered a place on the distance criteria.

    St James and St Alphege are two very different schools. St Alphege attracts children from outside the Borough and there will be a number of children who will go onto attend Grammar schools or private schools. I believe it is important that opportunities to attend schools in Solihull are fair and transparent. Not only do these proposals have the potential to prioritise children outside of the Borough, but they discriminate against children in Solihull who do not attend these two Church of England schools. Children who live just outside the catchment area but close to Tudor Grange may now not be offered a place on the distance criteria.

    I have asked to speak to the governing body of Tudor Grange and have written to Education Secretary Michael Gove. I'm also writing and talking to local parents. Do feel free to share your thoughts with me at lorely.burt.@parliament.uk. I'll keep you up to speed on developments."

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    1. 30 children have joined st james in the least few weeks. They are already thinking about extending to two form entry so the numbers go from 12 to 60. That will have huge impact on local children.

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  11. Lorely Burt tells us nothing. She acknowledges there will be plenty of room for catchment area children. She shows concern about those outside the catchment area that may not get in ???? That happens to hundreds now. In addition she shows very limited knowledge of the catchment area. Tudor Grange has an extended catchment area so some pupils who live much closer may not get in while others in the extended catchment do. The problem is the massive popularity of the school.

    She will go which way the wind appears to be blowing. She holds one of the most marginal seats in the country, so I understand that. Admission by other means than proximity already happens through the extended catchment area. The coalition has also made it clear in the revised code that popular schools can use free school meals as a criteria to make the best schools available to children from poorer backgrounds, this was linked to the "pupil premium" which is a key Liberal Democrat element of coalition education policy. Her knowledge is understandably weak. What she does confirm very clearly is that there is plenty of room for children from the catchment area and the two proposed schools. As far as I can see she knows little and says a lot.

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  12. Most of the children who live close to the school but not in the catchment area are in Alderbrooks catchment area. There are two schools on the same campus area! I am also shocked that she says those who can afford to pay the high property prices should have priority. She is obviously trying to court votes. If that is her aim she would be better off apologising for her parties total misleading of the electorate on tuition fees!

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  13. St James planned admission number is already 60. They have just been a long way from being full. It is obvious they will probably extend the age range to take children from the start of school until secondary age and reduce the number from 60 to a lower number. With the expansion of numbers at St James they will have bigger budgets and be able to recruit some high quality staff and go from strength to strength. It is obvious that Tudor Grange have a very clear strategic plan for St James and it will be a great success. They will still be able to accommodate their catchment area easily, particularly if they extend the age range at St James. This is what really upsets some people, particularly at SMBC and other schools. Some parents have been understandably concerned but Tudor Grange have clearly thought through the catchment area issue more than was initially thought.

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  14. Tudor Grange have certainly not thought through the catchment area issue. The numbers on their website indicate that they are very close to the 250 limit even if only an extra 50 children are admitted from St James' and St Alphage. If, for example, there are 70 children instead of 50, catchment area children will be displaced.

    I would be very surprised if St James' does reduce its admission number for each year group to 30 or 45 children and if it does, no doubt it will become an exclusive club for those attending St James' church rather than serving the community in Shirley.

    I'm sure that St James' will be a 'great success' because, very typically of TGA, the promise of a guaranteed place for children from St James' is a cyncial manipulation of the admissions system to boost numbers at that school to the detriment of other local schools. We have already seen how they are manipulating 'fair banding' at TGAW by imposing a national ability profile on a catchment area with a lower ability profile, in order to attract out of catchment higher ability children in preference to those from the catchment area.

    TGA certainly produces good results on paper. But as a parent of children who have attended TGA, the reality of education in the school for individual children is not as satisfactory as the data suggests.

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    1. "A catchment area with a lower ability profile" Abiltity linked to geography is certainly a new concept. This statement shows some really deep seated attitudes and prejudice exist. Your ability and potential linked to your housing??? Higher ability children live elsewhere. This sounds like educational apartheid. Sometimes achievement is lower, for social reasons but to say ability is linked to where you live just sums up some of the deep prejudice that is at play here.

      These attitudes are simply indefensible.

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  15. One persons cynical manipulation is another persons strategic plan! It is clear. That as far as 8.03 is concerned they can do nothing right except to do nothing. At TGAW they have taken a deeply troubled school and improved it beyond recognition without fair banding, only the children who were admitted to the previous school. To the parents there these "on paper" results mean the world. In the long run it will be the disadvantaged youngsters of that area who will benefit by attending a school with a balanced comprehensive mix. But fair banding only works if the school is very, very popular which is happening at TGAW. Clearly the proposals in Solihull would give a greater social mix. Perhaps that is the problem. Now fair banding at TG Solhull would definitely get the natives aroused. There are some wonderful people in Solhull but there is a selfish materialistic element who are too conscious of their post code, their car reg plate and even which golf or gym membership they have, yes even that has a status to some in Solihull. I think TG Solihull should show confidence in their analysis. All they have to do is prioritise catchment above the proposed feeder schools and that would deal with most but not all of the worries. For some anything that challenges their own little world will not be acceptable. No organisation is perfect, far from it just like individual people.The staff at TG Solihull constantly say and acknowledge this, which is at the heart of why they have been so successful for so long.

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  16. I am the poster 8.03 and I have just found a quote which sums up exactly how I feel about TGA:

    'I'll tell you what I think the issue is: finding the right balance between a drive for standards, so that every child in the country is enabled to access different types of education that they might wish to access, on the one hand; and on the other, not being susceptible to a top-down driven measurement culture, which reduces the key elements of what I think a school fundamentally is about, which is to do with holistic development – the all-rounded person; enabling young people to develop that true sense of self-worth, which is, in my view, absolutely essential if [they] are going to be able to stand up for themselves and stand up for a purpose higher than themselves.'

    It's by the Eton headmaster, Tony Little. The trouble with TGA is exactly that - it is a top-down driven measurement culture.

    I do agree that there are some Sihillians who are far too interested in their little world - I'm not one of them. Although we live in the TGA catchment area, I would have been happy for my children to attend any of the local secondary schools. Our children attended Cranmore/Widney schools and they still have many friends who attended other secondary schools such as Alderbrook. We were actually very close to applying for a place at Alderbrook in preference to TGA for one of our children and I have no doubt that she would have achieved as well at that school as she has done at TGA. In the end, we decided she would not particularly enjoy the performing arts aspects of the Alderbrook curriculum but we were very impressed by the inclusive ethos of Alderbrook which contrasted with the outlook we have encountered at TGA.



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  17. Hi 8.03, I am 10.41. My daughter attended TG Solihull. She was below average ability and is now at University doing well and TG hoped her develop from a girl lacking in confidence. A pushy competitive Primary School didn't help. I found the school totally inclusive and supportive. Was I delighted with everything? No but the whole balance over the years she was there was fantastic. I am trying to restore some balance to what I think are unfair judgements particularly about the motives of the school. Would they have risked their reputation at Worcester and at a struggling primary in Solihull if they were selfish and manipulative, not really. The risk was significant. People may not agree with what they do, I understand that if you are concerned about admission you will have a view, but some of the comments about lying, being elitist and selective, as well as cynical manipulation are at best unfair and at worst nasty and spiteful. But the worst of these people can work it off at the most exclusive Gym in the area while they think about their house prices and worry about their neighbours new car!

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  18. Posters can post with a verified name and account if they join Google, it's free!

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