EDUCATION DEBATE: Will Harborough school admissions shake-up create a ‘two-tier system’?

The admissions criteria at Market Harborough's Robert Smyth Academy and at the town's Welland Park Academy is being looked at by both schools.
The admissions criteria at Market Harborough's Robert Smyth Academy and at the town's Welland Park Academy is being looked at by both schools.

The future for secondary-school education in Market Harborough is at a crosswords and we want to know what YOU – the parents – think about the plans.

The debate has been prompted this week by a thought-provoking letter to the Mail from one concerned Foxton parent who thinks the newly-proposed selection criteria for Market Harborough is unfair to surrounding villages.

His letter is reproduced in full, below.

But what do you think about the admissions criteria changes being proposed for the town’s Robert Smyth Academy and Welland Park Academy?

Welland Park is holding an eight-week consultation about the issue and is holding a consultation evening this Monday from 6-7pm.

We are planning to run a feature on the proposal in next week’s paper and would love to publish some of your views.

Here is the letter:

“I write to raise awareness of the possible watershed decisions that are being made in the secondary-school consultations in Market Harborough which close on February 4.

The current suggested over-subscription criteria to be adopted by both secondary schools has been taken from council policy/guidelines which, in the unusual case of Market Harborough, must be wholly inappropriate for the area.

Unusually for the county, the area has two secondary schools in the town very close to each other. This causes a crisis for children and families in the villages due to the proposed deciding clause of “nearest the school” in the over-subscription criteria for both schools.

If one makes a sensible assumption that, as is now, one school will always be doing better than the other, and that this will be known by the Harborough population, the school doing the best will always be oversubscribed and the second school will always have places.

The “proximity clause” means that all Harborough town residents will always have 100 per cent choice of where they send their children, but all families and children in any of the villages such as Foxton, the Langtons, East Farndon and such, will have no option and always be sent to the school which is less popular simply due to being further away.

The current proposal creates a two-track system, forcing parents, if they want the best education that the Harborough district has to offer, to leave the villages and move into the town.

There really is no other way.

If this is the case, we should do all we can, as there is still time, to stop this becoming the adopted criteria at both schools.

People need to write to the schools before Wednesday, February 4.

I understand this selection criteria of ‘nearest to school’ has been used as an appropriate pivot across the county in decisions about where children can go to school, and in most areas this makes sense.

It is the unusual proximity of the schools in Harborough to each other and the town that mean this criteria must not be adopted in Harborough district.

It is wholly unfair and can be avoided if decision-makers take this on board now.

Surely, and critically, the “nearest school” criteria must be removed from both secondary schools.

If a cut-off criteria is used, then an independent lottery clause can be added. This is the only way we can ensure that children in the villages avoid a permanent second-choice education.

I have written a similar letter to the chairmen and heads of the two secondary schools in question, and the leader of Harborough District Council Cllr Blake Pain.

We should make sure the villages get fair and equal access to the best education provided and a generation of children are not penalised permanently due to their village’s location in the district.”

So, it’s over to you - what do YOU think?

Story by Alex Blackwell.

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