No automatic entry for siblings

Photo courtesy of Uckfield Community Technology College. SUS-160113-111100001
Photo courtesy of Uckfield Community Technology College. SUS-160113-111100001

Plans to change the sibling rule in schools from next year could have a ‘negative effect’ on local families, a leading head teacher has warned.

Hugh Hennebry, principal of Uckfield Community Technology College has written to all parents urging them to take part in an East Sussex County Council consultation on admissions arrangements for the year starting 2017. The consultation outlines plans to ‘prioritise children living in the community area ahead of children with a sibling link who live outside the area.’

It says allowing brothers and sisters to have automatic places in schools could act as a disincentive for parents to send their child to schools outside their area, freeing up places for local children moving in. In his own response to the council’s admissions and transport manager, Mr Hennebry explains that having two or more children at different schools will be highly inconvenient for transport to and from school. He goes on: “Furthermore, there will be no coordination between the two schools for school events that parents are expected to attend, thus inconveniencing parents even more.”

He also cites public transport problems, where older siblings look after younger ones which improves student welfare and safety.

Mr Hennebry told the Express: “I am anxious that parents take part in the consultation but I must say I am not giving them a steer as to their response. There have been various decisions made by the County Council in the past which have had a great impact on students and families; the issue of public transport is one. And I want to make sure families understand what is being proposed, and take the time to make their views known.”

In his letter to parents he goes on to say the proposal’s stated aim is to get children to go to their nearest school. “This reduces parental choice and parents do not get much choice as it is. The whole schools’ admission process should have at its core the aim of giving parents and students as much choice as possible. In the case of Uckfield which is over-subscribed, all the local children get their places with the sibling rule as it is. The only students who may not get a place are those who live a very long away away and do not have a sibling at the College.”

He explains this is the view of the College’s governing body but stresses families must express their own points of view about the proposal.

Explaining the proposed policy change, County says: “This would enable those schools to serve their local community as a priority in years when they are oversubscribed.”

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