Friday, 19 April 2013

Primary dropped from Tudor Grange admission plans

CONTROVERSIAL plans to give priority to two primary schools for admissions to Tudor Grange Academy have been revised so only one gets priority.

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


School governors have dropped plans to favour St Alphege Primary School if the school is oversubscribed from September 2014.

But Tudor Grange Primary Academy St James in Shirley children will get priority over youngsters who live in the catchment area and those with siblings at the school.

Tudor Grange can make the changes as it now has academy status, giving it independence from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, which opposed the admissions changes.

Its academy trust – a group of schools – includes St James.

A school report said a public consultation found a “large number” who supported and opposed the plans.

Concerns mostly considered the impact on catchment area children and that Tudor Grange would become a faith school as St James and St Alphege are Church of England.

There were also concerns from existing parents about siblings when their child attends Tudor Grange but does not live in the catchment area.

Governors who made a decisions said they had an “overriding principle” to have a “commitment” to St James and catchment area children.

Up to 30 St James children will apply each year to Tudor Grange’s 250 places.

It said: “We believe the decisions above would maintain our overall objective and commitment to Tudor Grange Primary Academy St James in particular but would also demonstrate a sensible response to the more genuine concerns that have come out of the recent consultation.

“It is clear from all the number projections that the  arrangement above would offer no realistic threat to catchment area children being  refused admission.”

Responding to concerns it would hit house prices, the report said: “There is and always has been a substantial premium on house prices in the Tudor Grange catchment area.

“While we are confident that the proposals would not have that impact, there was a real fear
about this risk.

“We believe it is reasonable to respond to this by giving greater protection to the catchment area criteria.”

It added: “We have no plans to make Tudor Grange Academy Solihull a faith school. We are affiliated to the Diocese of Birmingham and have very similar values.”

But it said giving favour to children of siblings at the school could result in “on-going manipulation”.

The report said: “For example this could  be true where people take out rentals in the catchment area and then move out once a sibling connection has been established.

“In the long term the  governors have decided that the sibling criteria should be eliminated
completely.”

35 comments:

  1. I have read the statement on the web site and I have to say that it is a well balanced and sensible conclusion. The catchment area is clearly totally secure as is the proposed intake from St James. The arguments about indirect discrimination are totally obsolete because there is not a pupil St James who has gained a place through the Church Criteria because over subscription criteria have never been applied. They have applied for a change of age range and to remove church criteria at St James. It is clear that this is likely to be successful. Solihull MBC are on official record that the Admissions Code has been followed and they have done this more than once.

    I could be a little cynical here. They put out a proposal, go to the air raid shelters, let the opposition run out of ammunition, modify the proposals, close the escape routes and walk out into the sunshine where they wanted to be in the first place. There could be a further objection but that now has only a very faint chance of success if any. In other words "mission accomplished" or "game set and match".

    On the other hand it could be much more simple. They have conducted a genuine consultation and come to a well balanced and sensible conclusion that most people can see. The "secular and humanist fundamentalists" will see it differently but so may The Monster Raving Looney Party!

    I totally supported the principle of what they were trying to achieve. I was also appalled by some of the spiteful nastiness that has accompanied this debate. By consulting they have resisted the shouting of fools but found time to listened to the wisdom of crowds. Well done to Tudor Grange Academy and all the very best in the future to you and St James.

    Michael (Tudor Grange parent up to July 2012).

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  2. A victory for common sense and respectful listening.

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  3. It is very interesting. When Tudor Grange first produced these proposals there was a" freezing frenzy" of comment. Now this site is virtually silent. Slowly but surely every argument against the proposals has been dismantled and stripped away. We are left with the "clutching at straws" of the atheist fundamentalists. They are now left in a difficult position. Do they press ahead with a further objection. If they do and lose they will weaken their position when they try to intimidate other schools. If they don't they will be perceived as "hot air" objectors who are wearing "the Emperors Clothes". It really does seem that the secular lobby have been thrashing around like a thrashing whale that has been caught in a tide that they cannot cope with.

    What a shame!

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  4. Firstly, this is not a done deal. A comprehensive and detailed complaint is being handled by the OSA as I write. The complaint is far more professional and detailed than the shambles that masqueraded as a consultation, put out by Tudor Grange. The OSA will report back after June 30th and we'll see then who's wearing the Emperors clothes? But before you all rejoice too soon, think about the wider implications of our (the taxpayers) education system. Schools just like Tudor Grange, up and down the country, are being removed further and further from public scrutiny by the day. On this occasion, the (possible) outcome finds favour with you. But if the trend carries on you may well end up being the slighted ones and when that day arrives no-one will care. Don't wish too hard....

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  5. Poppycock! Read the Equality Act! Now I know why lawyers are paid so much money to explain what is there in black and white on the statute book. Even a first year law student can usually grasp the principle of indirect discrimination. Why are the locals of Solihull finding this so difficult? If seemingly neutral criteria in fact result in applicants of one faith (faith being a protected characteristic in the 2010 Act) being given an advantage over those of another faith then that is indirect discrimination. It matters not whether the over subscription criteria at St James' are altered. A faith school is a faith school whatever its entry criteria and it is inevitably more attractive to applicants of the faith that controls that school. Indirect discrimination is about the content of the tin, not the label! Take the example of a secondary school that prefers applicants from a feeder school in a predominantly white middle class area when its catchment is poorer and the applicants from within catchment are mostly from the asian subcontinent. This would be an example of indirect discrimination on ground of race. The school's decision to give priority to the feeder school with the predominantly white ethnic composition disadvantages those of other races who are consequently excluded. The proposed feeder school is not a "white school", all races can attend but the fact that the school is in reality predominantly white means that the preference of its pupils gives rise to indirect discimination. It's really not that hard to grasp, is it?

    On a related note, am I the only one who considers that it is arrogant of TGA to suggest, impliedly if not expressly, that I too can gain the golden ticket for a place at my local secondary school, if I am prepared to enrol my children in a junior school where a faith that is not my own is the foundation of that school's ethos? What nonsense that I should have to send my children to a faith school to gain a place at my local non-faith secondary school!

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  6. 22.14

    What rubbish. So if a catchment area of a very propular school is predominantly White and of a certain socio economic background that is some form of indirect discrimination. The issue here is oversubscription. If someone does not get in then someone has been deselected, that could even be indirect "indirect discrimination" !!

    As far as the OSA objection is concerned I cannot see how it will be successful when the local authority is not an objector and is on record as stating that the admissions code of practice has been observed. An objection cannot be upheld on the basis of subjective disagreement it only be upheld on the basis of clear criteria. The local authority has a statutory duty to ensure the code of practice is followed and have endorsed the process even though they disagreed with parts of the proposal. A very steep uphill battle for the objectors methinks. Doesn't matter how professional and thorough itvis if it is fundamentally wrong!

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  7. Dear writer above

    You have again missed the point. The example based on race is where the catchment is predominantly mixed or of one race and the feeder given priority is predominantly of a different race. The analogy relates to the situation in solihull where TGA's catchment is of mixed religious/no religious denomination but the priority given to St James prioritises those of one faith above all others. The example on race is taken from guidance given to schools on admissions arrangements. It is not plucked from the air. The whole point of the law on indirect discrimination is to avoid the situation where proposals are not intended to discriminate but their effect is discriminatory. You are correct that any admissions criteria must discriminate/choose applicants on a basis. The point is that geography in catchment/proximity to the school is not a protected characteristic, whereas race and religious belief/lack thereof are protected characteristics. Please just read the Equality Act 2010. It is there to see. My 14 years in legal practice does give me an advantage but the Act itself isn't beyond the comprehension of a non-lawyer.

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  8. If there is an OSA that people can object to and a clear code of practice that must be followed then surely that is very clear public scrutiny. It seems much clearer than accountability to a local council that may be elected on the basis of a majority from less than 30% of the electorate.

    Who exactly are "the slighted ones"? Tudor Grange have modified their proposals following consultation. This means catchment area families are secure. The "slighted ones" are likely to be the secular lobby and the anti-academies lobby. In a democracy we are allowed differences in opinions, I don't naturally feel slighted if somebody disagrees with me.

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  9. 09.39

    It is courts and judges that interpret the law not individuals 14 years legal experience or not. Civil action usually involves legal advice to both parties, both sets of legal advice involve such issues as "good case" "strong case " etc. In this case no one has ever been discriminated against as the criteria have never been applied at St James and never will. Currently they have Muslim students and students from Birmingham! In addition the 30 places only account for just over 10% of the places at Tudor Grange.

    You may have legal opinion that is well informed. At the end of the day though it is just that, opinion not legal fact! I would not want use my money fighting a legal case on this issue as I think there was a serious possibility of losing and having to pay costs!

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  10. Judges are individuals. Most are former solicitors and barristers and some are part time judges whilst continuing to practise as solcitors or barristers.

    I would hate for the equality act point to have to be put to the test in court because this will mean unacceptable uncertainty and upset for the applicant who considers that they have been discriminated against and the individual who is given a place that might then be withdrawn if the applicant's case succeeds. The OSA has to consider not whether an individual has been discriminated against but whether there is the potential for discrimination in the proposals. I am confident that she will consider all available facts and opinion and come to a considered view.

    The Schools Adjudictor is an individual too - just like a judge.

    PS You miss the point again. It is wholly irrelevant whether oversubscription criteria have been applied at St James. St James is a CofE school and more attractive to CofE applicants. Content not label!

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    1. "she" ?????

      Some insider knowledge ??? Looks like some one who knows more about this than they are letting on.

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  11. PS I presume having now read the Equality Act in detail you are aware of the exemption for designated faith schools, who can discriminate onb grounds of faith (but not other grounds), whereas schools that are not designated faith schools cannot?

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  12. There is no designation on the grounds of religion by Tudor Grange. The designation is on the basis of a school in their Multi Academy Trust. Being part of that Trust does not require a faith designation. Some schools leave places for aptitude, eg Sport or Technology. Those schools are bound to attract applicants who are interested in those subject. They apply because of the ethos. Is this indirectly discriminatory to other applicants who may not get a place?

    I suspect the real issue here is religion and those who want an entirely secular state education. Churches eg Cof E and Catholicism are at the heart of our education system. They were setting up schools when others did nothing. The adjudicator will make their decision. If I was a betting man I know where my money would be!

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  13. The issue is definitely religion. Not the desire for secular education but the desire not to see any individual preferred or discriminated against, directly or indirectly, on grounds of their professed religious beliefs or lack thereof. Please note that an absence of religious belief is given the same weight as a religion or belief as a protected characteristic under the Act.

    As I understand your argument you believe that Tudor Grange preference of pupils applying from Year 6 at ST James is not based upon their religion but on the fact that TGA and ST James are part of a mulit academy trust. I agree. I do not believe TGA have set out to directly discriminate on grounds of faith. However the result of their preference of pupils applying from Year 6 at St James is to indirectly disciminate. This is a good text book example of the difference between direct (deliberate) discrimination and indirect (consequential but not intended) discriminsation. There endeth the lesson.

    By the way I have no affiliation to the BHA or NSS and no agenda regarding faith based education as a valid option for those who choose it, although I think that your reference to the foundation of church schools in the 1800s is ignoring over a century of state education. I do object to anyone being "chosen"/preferred as an applicant to a school that is debarred in law from selecting pupils on grounds of their religious belief or faith on the basis of their attendance at a chosen faith junior school.

    I have nothing more to add. I chanced upon this web page and was very concerned that the individuals posting were misguided on issues of law. The opportunity for the last word is yours. I will not be posting further.

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  14. Thank you. Enjoyed the debate. Don't particularly want the last word. One of the wider issues here is the very large number of CofE Primary schools in the country. In rural areas where feeder primary schools are used for oversubscription criteria the situation you describe is inevitable and unavoidable as the C of E Primaries heavily outnumber the Cof E secondaries.

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    1. Here's my take on it. If you nominate a set of feeder primary schools based on proximity to the secondary school then it's not a problem if some of the primary schools are C of E because they have been nominated on a transparent and reasonable basis (location). What Tudor Grange did was to select two schools that are both Church of England and give them higher priority than local children. The justification given was that they had "links" with the school and that the fact they were both C of E was co-incidental. Well, I'm not so sure that's the case. Reverend Hughes is on record as saying the link with St Alphege was partly because they wanted to partner with a religious school, and the sponsorship of St James seems to have been influenced by the relationship with the Diocese of Birmingham, but let's put that to one side for now. The result, whether intended or not, would be that children attending C of E schools would have an advantage over those who did not. In the case of St Alphege, non religious children would have been at a significant disadvantage in getting places. It's true that St James has not refused places to non C of E children but there's still some debate about whether non C of E parents would want to send their children to a school that puts so much emphasis on a religion they do not share. I think it still gives an advantage to those who are C of E. This would not be a problem if St James were merely one of a set of local feeder schools, which is very common, but in this case they have become a single feeder school with preference over the local schools that may not share a sponsor but seem to me to have just as strong a claim to be feeder schools because of their proximity and/or the number of children that have traditionally transferred to Tudor Grange. Historically there has been trouble where schools try to pick and choose their own feeder schools. In this case Tudor Grange aren't trying to pick the schools with the best results, but I think the principle that feeder schools should be nominated on a consistent, objective basis, that is demonstrably fair is not one that should be ignored. So it boils down to whether you think it is consistent and fair to nominate a religious primary school that is further away from the school over the local schools.

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  15. Wow, this is the kind of tiresome debate only religious zealots could find the energy for. Just confirms my belief that the French have the right idea - a secular education. Thank god I'm an atheist. Ooops, pass the horse hair shirt vicar!

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    1. Wow, this is the kind of point that only secular fundamentalists would make. Just confirms my belief that the British have the right idea. Choice, diversity, tolerance of different beliefs.

      "Thank god I'm an atheist". ?????????????????????????

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    2. Duh, it's irony.

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    3. You idiot! Obviously it was meant to be irony. The paradox is that an atheist has to use God to create irony! How ironic is that ???

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    4. Absolutely! If an atheist has no belief in God then it is not logical for them to use God at all ! If they use God for irony then there is an acknowledgement of God as a concept. God has many guises and manifestations.

      In my fathers house there are many mansions.

      "Duh" !

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  16. Here's an observation from a slightly different point: if you weren't happy with the way your local school was being run, what would you do? Well, if it's a state school you could approach the chair of governors and if that went unresolved the director of services in the local authority. He would have the powers to investigate and, if appropriate, remove or replace a governor(s). But if the school's an academy, the only place you can go to get it resolved is the secretary of state for education (aka Gove). Who's the biggest cheerleader for academies - good and bad? Yes, it's Gove. So we're now reliant on the only (hopefully) independent, impartial body that remains between us and effectively an autocracy - the OSA. On this occasion, you may well be in favour of whatever the school wants to do. But ask yourself what your course of action would be if you weren't in favour. You'd be discovering just how slanted and unyielding the system has become. And it's not right.

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  17. What a massive exaggeration. The whole purpose of Academies is to provide freedom and raise standards. The last 2 governments have supported this policy. The growing evidence is that it is working. So let us ignore the important issues of a child's education and create a structure to deal with complaints. The logic here would be to nationalise everything and make councils and local committees run everything. If the whole community was so desperately unhappy they would be transferring their children to other schools in their droves. Paradoxically this debate arises for the exact opposite reasons, many are unhappy because they fear they have less likelihood of getting in.

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    1. "the growing evidence is that it's working". Could you provide some detail to support that statement please?

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    2. Yes. DfE reports on Academy performance, particularly rises in results at GCSE. These reports focus on sponsored Academies which have been open for more than two years. Also look at SSAT annual reports by Professor David Jessen. At a more local level look at the OFSTED dashboards for secondary schools in Solihull. The best by some distance is Tudor Grange Academy, one of the first schools to convert to Academy status in 2010.

      In the secondary sector it is becoming increasingly difficult to compare as the majority of secondary schools have become Academies. In all walks of life increased autonomy and freedom leads to better performance this is true of individuals, communities, companies, and countries. Why would schools be any different? Of course there are examples of poor performance. But taken as a whole increased freedom to make your own decisions and to be accountable for those decisions improves performance, the research on this in all walks of life is overwhelming.

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    3. Oh yeh, worked a treat in the energy, rail and water sectors....not.

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    4. There is a clear difference between autonomy and privatisation. In the cases you describe state monopolies were replaced by private monopolies. The problem is monopoly not private/public. Autonomy is a much deeper and sophisticated concept. It is at the heart of human nature and is about freedom and responsibility.

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  18. Oh please, are you really trying to tell me because governments support something it has to be right? Shame no-one told Beeching that when he destroyed the railways, or Thatcher when she decimated the Pits and sold off the utilities or how about Blair incorporating the Human Rights Act into Law. The whole community will be very unhappy soon, but there wont be a school left to transfer to - you'll be stuck with unaccountable, underperforming (there's no available evidence to support either view yet) overspending academies. And if you want some factual evidence, as opposed to your sweeping generalisations, google 'Jo Shuter'. It makes interesting reading, unlike this Blog which I've had my fill of.

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  19. "The whole community will be very unhappy soon, but there won't be a school left to transfer to - you'll be stuck with unaccountable, under performing (*********) overspending academies".

    A statement like this is used and then the writer criticises others for sweeping generalisations. If the author above has had their fill then this site will be all the better for it if they never return. Debate and disagreement is the lifeblood of better ideas and thoughts. Contributions like the one above emanate from a closed mind and intolerance. To debate with someone like this is like having a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent!!

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  20. Isn't that a line from Blackadder? You know, the Dr Johnson episode. Hilarious.

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  21. Ah yes. C is for contrafibularity. Priceless.

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  22. Ploppy, son of Ploppy!!

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  23. Blimey, just stumbled across this site. Is this the best the good people of solihull, bentley heath, knowle and dorridge can come up with? Too much spare time if you ask me. Love the blackadder stuff though. ta ra.

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  24. News flash: the ruling from the OSA is in draft form but seeking legal clarification. Interesting. The consultation at St James has finished. No findings published yet by the governors, but no surprise there - communication isn't their strong point (as mentioned in their last Ofsted report).

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  25. A little late finding this forum! However, as educated as some of you claim to be. I wonder if those apposing, ever looked at St James or just made assumptions? My children attend the school, and there is a huge mix of children from all faiths, all backgrounds and all colours. So shame on you! Content for an argument is ALWAYS best researched first.
    However there will be a really positive impact for your children. When they attend Tudor Grange Secondary they will have the privilege to mix with St James children, who are taught tolerance, and to embrace people from all walks of society, along with the academics. Something some of these children, may have never experienced at home!

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