Parents' concern over proposed academy changes

Southwater Junior Academy
Southwater Junior Academy

Southwater Junior Academy has announced plans to change its admissions policy – and parents are concerned.

A consultation has been launched into the proposals which, if approved, would mean children attending the neighbouring infant academy would not be guaranteed a place with the juniors.

Referring to the housing developments planned for the area – and the families they would bring – academy leaders said the reason for the proposed changes was to give priority to children who lived locally.

While parents recognised the logic of the changes for the future, they asked why the new admissions policy was scheduled to be introduced as soon as September 2018, thereby affecting families already in the Southwater system. They also asked why the consultation was taking place over Christmas.

The new criteria would only come into play if the school was over-subscribed. But, with the competition for places high everywhere, parents feared they would be left struggling to get their children to different schools miles apart.

Adryan and Tania Cresswell had to send their daughter to Southwater Infants because there was no room for her at nearby Castlewood with her sibling.

Now the family faces the possibility that she will not be given a place at the junior academy when the time comes.

Mr and Mrs Cresswell said: “It is not fair nor reasonable to give priority to those who currently do not live in Southwater – and at this moment in time may not have even heard of the village – above those who are already integral to the village school community. This is a policy more aligned to disrupting the village educational community, rather than nurturing it.”

Lynne Barnham, of Christ’s Hospital, called on the junior academy to safeguard places for youngsters such as her daughter, who were already placed at the infant academy.

Mrs Barnham was worried some parents may have already applied for a place for their child at the infant academy without knowing about the change in criteria.

Sarah Donald, who has a daughter at the infant academy, felt much of the blame for the lack of school places lay with councils.

She said: “They are agreeing to build more and more housing with the infrastructure around not being adequate. It’s getting harder and harder to see your doctor and dentist. The schools are full. What is going to happen next? The children’s welfare is not coming first in any of this.”

A statement from Anne Ratsey, head of Southwater Juniors, and chair of trustees Tony Mason, said no final decision had been made and the purpose of the consultation was to gather views on the proposals.

They added: “We would encourage anyone with an interest in the proposal to respond before the deadline of January 11 2017.”

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