Admissions Consultations FAQ
9th December 2019 to 24th January 2020 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This FAQ document has been written to provide responses to some frequently asked questions raised by stakeholders as part of the seven-week consultation process in relation to proposed changes to the admissions criteria for schools in Vanguard Learning Trust. It is worth noting that throughout this document Vanguard Learning Trust will also be referred to as the Trust and the Trust Academies as schools.
- How does the admissions process work for academies?
All maintained schools and those with academy status are required to comply with the School Admissions Code 2014, which is statutory guidance published by the Department for Education (DfE). In accordance with the Admissions Code 2014 the admissions authority, which is defined as the body responsible for determining the admissions criteria, must publish arrangements that clearly set out how children will be admitted, including oversubscription criteria; this applies when there are more applications than available places. Admissions authorities are also required to participate in the local authority’s co-ordination of admissions processes as well as the Fair Access Protocol (this is for children who do not have a school place).
- What are the reasons for the proposed changes as outlined in the consultation documentation?
The consultation letters outline the proposed changes. The criterion that both secondary schools have received feedback about relates to children who attend Trust primary schools.
This amendment was initially suggested by the board of trustees. The main reason for this suggestion relates to the responsibility Vanguard Learning Trust has for all students who attend Trust schools. The admissions code allows schools to name feeder primary schools as part of their oversubscription admissions criteria:
1.15 Admission authorities may wish to name a primary or middle school as a feeder school. The selection of a feeder school or schools as an oversubscription criterion must be transparent and made on reasonable grounds.
Vanguard Learning Trust is promoting partnership between its schools to benefit students’ education as well as providing professional development for its staff. It is committed to cross-phase education which is afforded by having both primary and secondary schools within the Trust. Over the past eighteen months, the Trust has been establishing a number of initiatives to enhance opportunities for students and staff in Trust schools; these have included school improvement projects (evaluations of last year’s projects can be accessed on the Trust’s website as well as information about the current ones), joint student activities and professional development opportunities for staff and governors (the three Trust newsletters outline many of these and are available on the Trust’s website).
In terms of the distance criterion, the trustees and governors agreed it was important to add a maximum distance of 2 km to this criterion because of their commitment to the local community. Both governing bodies reviewed the known data for the September 2019 Year 7 cohort; it was estimated that this criterion would have led to a small decrease in the maximum distance for Vyners School’s intake and would not have affected Ruislip High School’s intake. Other distances were considered, including 2.5 km; however the specified distance of 2 km was agreed as it balanced the responsibility of each school to support students’ education in all other Trust schools as well their commitment to be a local community. Therefore the selection of a Trust primary school was deemed to be reasonable by local governing bodies and the board of trustees. It was also in line with the admissions code:
1.10 The Code does not give a definitive list of acceptable oversubscription criteria. It is for admissions authorities to decide which criteria would be most suitable to the school according to the local circumstances.
- Why are the local governing bodies leading the consultation process and not the Trust’s board of trustees?
As stated in Question 2, the initial suggestion was made by the board of trustees to add an oversubscription criterion for children who attend a Trust primary school living within a specified distance of the secondary school. However, although Vanguard Learning Trust is a multi-academy trust (MAT) consisting of the following academies - Ruislip High School, Ryefield Primary School and Vyners School - as the admission authority the Trust has delegated the allocation of school places to the governors of each academy.
- Why is this consultation taking place at this time?
The consultation is open from Monday 9th December 2019 until Friday 24th January 2020. Feedback can be sent for governors’ consideration as outlined in each school’s consultation letter either as a letter or an email to the clerk of the respective governing body.
The reason for this time period is because admission arrangements must be formally determined on or before 28th February each year, even where they remain unchanged from the previous year. Any proposed variations must be consulted on for a minimum of six weeks between 1st October and 31st January for proposed changes to the oversubscription criteria for the following year. The arrangements for consultation are outlined in School Admissions Code 2014 under 1.42, 1.43, 1.44 and 1.45. The seven-week consultation for each school was launched at the earliest opportunity following local governing body and board of trustee meetings.
- Will this mean that all children within a Vanguard Learning Trust primary school will have priority above other children?
As outlined in Question 3, the proposal is that children who attend a Trust primary school and live within 2 km of one of the Trust’s secondary schools will be given priority only above the final criterion which is based on distance. Both secondary schools have oversubscription criteria which apply to all applicants and this proposed criterion would be the penultimate criterion. Therefore, where no other criteria (or category) applies, children who attend a Trust school and live further than 2 km from one of the Trust’s secondary schools, and do not satisfy a higher criteria within the school’s oversubscription criteria will not be given priority above those children who do satisfy a higher criteria within the school’s oversubscription criteria; eg. siblings, children of staff.
- Has an assessment been conducted to evaluate the impact that these changes would have on families of children who are currently in primary schools that are currently outside of Vanguard Learning Trust?
In assessing whether the selection was reasonable and fair, the schools reviewed comprehensive paperwork in relation to the admissions code; national and local context of MATs adding Trust primary schools to their oversubscription admissions criteria, including several cross-phase MATs in the London Borough of Hillingdon; and data relating to the distance criteria for the past three years. Both secondary schools expanded in September 2019; the data collected in respect of the expansion was therefore considered as the best indicator of how the proposed Trust feeder criterion, for children living within a 2 km distance from the Trust secondary school, would have affected the maximum distance for children admitted in September 2019 into Year 7. Further, as noted in Question 3 above, several distances were considered and 2 km was chosen by both schools’ local governing bodies.
- Are there currently any plans to expand further the number of schools in Vanguard Learning Trust?
Part of Vanguard Learning Trust’s vision is to be a local, inclusive, cross-phase MAT. The Trust is in the process of developing an expansion plan should other local schools consider joining Vanguard Learning Trust in the future. The board of trustees recognises that this will take time and is establishing an associate membership scheme for schools that are interested in joining the Trust.
- There are concerns that these changes mean that children will be travelling from further afield which may bring more traffic into the area. Has this issue been considered?
Vanguard Learning Trust intends to remain a Trust for local children. It is for this reason that the distance for children who attend a primary school within Vanguard Learning Trust has been set at 2 km for both Trust secondaries. The expectation is that all students should be able to walk or cycle to a Trust school.
- Will the proposed changes have an impact on students who have an education and health care plan (EHCP)?
The admission of children with an EHCP is dealt with through a completely separate process and therefore the proposed changes do not affect children with an EHCP. The admission of children with an EHCP is led by local authorities in line with statutory guidance noted in the DfE’s SEND code of practice 2015. Children will be admitted to each school named on the EHCP.
- Who will make the final decision about the admissions arrangements for September 2021?
As outlined in Question 3, the final decision for each school’s proposed changes to their admission arrangements will be made by their respective governing body as the academy’s admissions authority.
- Will all views be taken into account before a final decision is made about the admissions arrangements?
Following the close of the consultation period, all submitted comments will be considered at each school’s governors’ meeting; the final arrangements will be determined by Wednesday 28th February 2020 and published on schools’ websites.
As well as sending written feedback as outlined in the consultation letters, the schools and Trust would welcome specific questions to be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org referring to Admissions Consultation in the subject header.
While every effort has been made to provide the most accurate, up-to-date information, the Trust’s vision, as noted in this document, is subject to change without notice and should not be construed as an indefinite commitment.