It’s looking like headless chicken time down at the Counts Louse as Bristol City Council attempts to be seen to be doing something about the primary admissions crisis. On the surface there seems to be a lot going on. But what is it all actually about?
For instance, the Children’s Services Scrutiny Commission meeting next Monday is packed with primary admissions items.
New education exec, Clare Campion-Smith assures us in her first Executive Member report (pdf) that, “resolving the significant and important issue of primary school admissions has been a key priority for the new administration”. Unfortunately detail on how she might achieve this is noticeably scarce.
Item 14 (pdf) on the agenda is ‘Arrangements for first admission to primary and infant schools in Septmeber (sic) 2009’.
The item is accompanied by a document so long, opaque, complex, confused and bureaucratic you may well find yourself agreeing with James Barlow, who questions the value of having an authority responsible for the centralised planning and control of our schools and their admissions. Instead he wonders whether schools working independently and looking after themselves might serve us better.
If you still have the will to live after item 14 then you can always make your way to item 15 (pdf) – ‘School Admissions – How Can We Deliver Fairer Access?’.
This long series of disjointed notes taken from an exclusive seminar on school admissions held on 10 March for the great and good of the city’s education establishment creates a lot more heat than light but does contain this useful observation courtesy of Marius Frank, Head of Bedminster Down School:
In October, a landmark meeting took place, between Principles, Headteachers and Governors from every Secondary School and Academy in Bristol, along with senior council and educational officials.
People were asked to share their reflections with the group. Roger White stood up in turn, and stated that when every person in the room sent their sons and daughters to Bristol state schools, this would send a powerful signal to all Bristol parents that change has arrived. Roger sends his children to Ashton Park School, where he is also a Governor. You could have heard a pin drop. There was much gazing at feet and then shuffling on chairs. Clearly, this was a social challenge too far for the august group gathered there, but, in an instant, the silence defined Bristol’s problems: we remain a socially divided city.
There it is then. The people in charge, taking all the decisions, spending all the money and poncing around at upmarket seminars aren’t even using the schools they insist on running. What better indictment of a rotten, failing system is there?
Possibly this: the minutes of the hastily arranged meeting between parents, who don’t have a school place for their five year olds in September, and various city council education big wigs last Monday.
Here’s the highlights:
The Authority is fully committed to get it right and offered parents an unreserved apology for the current situation.
The local authority failed to communicate with parents clearly.
LA failed to ensure sufficient capacity of school places prior to advising parents the outcome of their school application on 30th January 2009.
LA needs to improve data collection informing school place planning and manage funds available.
LA is resolved to get it right for Reception 2010 intake and learn from mistakes this year.
This year LA has been overwhelmed by demand for school places in certain area of the city.
The immediate problem is a significant increase in demand for school places over the supply and really the LA should have known about this.
Confirmed that 5% – 9% more 3 and 4 year old requiring places than anticipated.
Surely something has to give here? We’re paying out millions a year for a desperately failing bureaucratic educational management structure, where those who run it make a good living while those who use it suffer.
Meanwhile the only proposals emerging from the Counts Louse are more of the same. Is that what we need?