THE EDUCATION secretary is being called on to clarify the rules over how schools should change their age range in a three tier system.
Kevin Dicks, chief executive of Redditch Borough Council, is writing to Nicky Morgan as well as Schools Minister David Laws to request specific guidance is issued on the process following the confusion and uncertainty caused earlier this year by Tudor Grange Academy’s announcement it intended to expand its intake to take pupils from the age of 11.
The move follows the decision by the council’s executive committee on Tuesday (December 16) to back the findings of a review by councillors into the circumstances leading up to and following the announcement by the Woodrow Drive school.
Coun Pat Witherspoon said while communication had been poor there was no question Tudor Grange Academy had acted properly but the current legislation overseeing the process was inadequate in a three tier system.
“National guidance for changes to the age of admission do not address the needs of schools in a three tier system and needs to be updated.” she said.
“It would help parents if there was greater clarity about how consultation should proceed in these circumstances and any potential consequences.”
Tudor Grange’s announcement led to fears the education system in the borough could be dismantled, threatening the existence of middle schools which would either close or be forced to convert into larger primary or high schools.
It led to calls for a wider review of the education system in Redditch to be carried out by Worcestershire County Council.
But Coun Carole Gandy, part of the review group, said they had dismissed the idea as it would unfairly raise expectations as under the current law schools – whether independent academies or state controlled – had the power to change their age intake without permission.
She added Tudor Grange felt it acceptable to reduce the overall number of pupils it would accommodate because middle school intakes were dropping, but they had ignored the impact future housebuilding in Webheath and Brockhill would have.
“There did appear to be a case of short sightedness and only looking four or five years in advance but not looking any further than that.”
Tudor Grange is currently waiting for a decision from the Education Funding Agency and the regional schools commissioner about whether or not it can proceed with its plan.
Other schools have also proposed changes, with some groups of schools discussing the potential for collectively altering their admission arrangements rather than going it alone.