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Proposed changes to Age Ranges at Gartree High School, Beauchamp College and Manor High School

January 13, 2015 4:08 PM
Gartree and Manor High Schools and Beauchamp College are all consulting on chaning their age ranges to 11-16 and 11-18.
Gartree and Manor High Schools and Beauchamp College are all consulting on chaning their age ranges to 11-16 and 11-18.

Like many parents I only became aware recently that Gartree, Manor and Beauchamp are consulting on changing their age range and have concerns over the potential consequences. Having read the information on the school's websites I believe the issues and concerns can be summarised as follows:

  • The effect of these proposals mean that the 3 secondary schools will be in competition with each other for the Children in a larger catchment area and the funding each child attracts.
  • Whilst 11-16 is the norm now in Leicestershire the current system in our area is extremely successful with Manor and Gartree students going on to achieve some of the best GCSE results in the country at Beauchamp. We should be very cautious in disrupting such a successful system.
  • I'm really concerned about children who do not attend Beauchamp at 11 getting a place in the 6th Form when they reach 16. If the total number of students in the college will remain the same then there will fewer places in each year group and consequentially fewer places in the 6th Beauchamp is a very popular school and demand for places at 11 will be high which means the college may already be at Capacity when students finishing at Gartree and Manor want to do their A levels at Beauchamp.
  • The changes would lead to re-opening the "nearest school" transport issue and an admissions policy that would potentially split up primary school classmates. Under the new Policy which comes into effect from September, the County Council's transport offer would be Manor as this is the nearest Leicestershire secondary school to all the villages within the new catchment areas.
  • Transition arrangements for a number of primary schools, including Thurnby and Houghton have not been fully thought through. My understanding is that they will not be in a position to accept year 6s (10 year olds) in 2016 when the changes are planned to come into effect. In some cases it will mean building new classrooms to increase capacity and coupled with new house building in Thurnby and Scraptoft this is a real problem. Beauchamp's website says they will take year 6s for one year only if necessary and subsequently the two High schools have confirmed they will do same. This simply underlines the rushed nature of these proposals and strengthens the argument for delaying the changes at the very least. Increasing the number of places at St Lukes, Fernvale and Houghton on the Hill is dependent on the availability of capital funding to the County Council and I am seeking urgent answers on this issue.
  • These announcements are very sudden and a marked turn from the positions that these heads previously held during the school transport campaign. Age range changes in Leicestershire have often come about through a domino effect, with one school choosing to change its age range and consequently forcing related schools to reluctantly follow suit. This huge change can be potentially be sparked off by the unilateral actions of a single school.
  • Listening to the coverage on Radio Leicester last Friday morning, it's clear that the 3 secondary schools are not in complete agreement on the benefits Manor and Gartree claim will result from the age range changes. In fact the Executive Principle of Beauchamp said that this is being forced upon them by the high schools and current high standards could not be guaranteed in the future. For anyone who missed the interviews its worth listening to them on the IPlayer at 7.05am, 7.35am and 8.05am.They can be found on the Radio Leicester website here:

The Process

As all 3 secondary schools are academies, the County Council does not make the decision whether to approve, reject or amend the proposals e.g. the 2016 implementation date. At the end of the consultation the schools will have to decide whether to submit their proposals in their current form to a new body called the Regional Schools Commissioner. Ultimately the final decision rests with the Secretary of State for Education, the Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan. Age range changes are meant to be responsive to the needs of parents but I do not detect any great pressure for Oadby to become 11-16 or 11-19. My understanding of the process is that parental support or the lack of it is a key consideration so its going to be really important that parents are aware of the consultation and respond to each of the 3 schools proposing changes. I intend to use my resources to publicise the issue and spread awareness.

Regrettably the current consultation does not provide parents with options. It merely gives parents the option to accept or reject the four parts to their proposals. It doesn't warn parents of the potential negative impacts or offer an alternative way forward. I think work needs to be done to ensure that the consultation is meaningful, that the concerns of parents are properly addressed and their views properly considered.

However, I do believe that if a group of concerned parents were to organise and set out their concerns that the schools will engage positively.