Cuckfield parents' fears after school announces new admissions proposal

Parents in Cuckfield say they fear for their children's future after finding out the village's secondary school is proposing a change to its admissions criteria.

Warden Park Secondary Academy – part of the Sussex Learning Trust – has launched a six-week public consultation on a proposal to amend its admissions criteria for entry for Year 7 places for September 2020 and beyond.

Its main proposal is to drop the catchment area. Instead, priority would be given to children who live closest, and those who attend the trust’s three primary academies – Warden Park Primary Academy, Northlands Wood Primary Academy and Hurst Farm Primary Academy, which is expected to open in September 2020 with two Reception classes.

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Parents fear children going to other schools in the catchment area might not get a place.

Warden Park Secondary Academy in Cuckfield. Picture: Google Street View

Jonathan Morris, CEO of Sussex Learning Trust, said he believed parents ‘did not have an awful lot to worry about’ and that he would be ‘utterly amazed’ if children living close by did not get in to the academy.

However, Helena Mallinson, whose two children go to Holy Trinity C of E Primary School in the village, said parents were ‘so worried’ about the proposal.

“I am absolutely terrified of my children’s future,” she told the Middy.

“One of the reasons why I moved to Cuckfield was because of the schools. But if my children don’t get in it will mean they won’t be able to walk to school anymore.”

Helena said her son is due to start at the academy in 2020, when the proposal could come into effect.

She said: “If he doesn’t get in he won’t be able to walk to school with all of his friends anymore. We will have to get in the car and drive somewhere. The traffic is already a nightmare in Cuckfield.

“This will have a knock-on effect on everybody. It is utterly ludicrous – it will devastate the community.

“Everyone is so worried about what effect this will have on their children’s future.”

The criteria for admissions to the academy follow the mandatory guidance in the Statutory Admissions Codes of the Department for Education (DfE) and the law.

In the proposal it says children with an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP) that specifies the academy, will be given prior consideration either for one of the Specialist Support Centre places or the ‘main school roll’.

Other places will be allocated using the new criteria with the ‘tie-breaker’ in each category (should they be oversubscribed) being nearest ‘as the crow flies’ from the front door of the child’s home to the front door (Reception) of the academy.

The proposal has been published on the Warden Park Secondary Academy website.

It says a high priority category will be given to children who attend Warden Park Primary Academy, Northlands Wood Primary Academy and Hurst Farm Primary Academy, but no one is guaranteed a place.

It says children at other primary schools other than these three will be assessed on how close they live compared to everyone else who applies in the same position.

It adds that in recent years every child at Warden Park Primary Academy and Northlands Wood Primary Academy that wanted a place secured one. And that only around 55 per cent of the total number of pupils from both academies have applied for a place at the academy.

Mr Morris said: “There are never any guarantees of a place of course but I would be utterly amazed if children living close by did not get in to the academy.

“I am encouraging people to look at this proposal. It is a consultation so we want people to respond to it – and to have a debate.

“We are not trying to upset people. My belief is that there is not an awful lot to worry about.”

The trustees of SLT and governors of the academy will be consulting on the proposal.

The consultation will conclude at 9am on January 9, 2019.