School Admissions Update
The verbal update was given by Rob Powell (Strategic Director, Resources), who explained there had been difficulties with in-year school admissions at the start of the new school year. The situation had since stabilised and work to improve the long-term position was well underway. Rob Powell said however that the issues that had arisen were unacceptable and he issued an apology to all those who had been negatively impacted by the difficulties encountered at the start of the term.
Rob Powell said Warwickshire was a county with good schools and good levels of educational attainment, and outlined the entirety of the work undertaken by the admissions service, which was much wider than the in-year admissions (8,260 in 2021/22, an increase from the 5,200 in 2020/21), which had been the subject of the challenges at the start of the Autumn term. This included the main transfer round for primary and secondary schools, and those moving from infant to junior school (17,500 applications for the 2023 school year). The team also oversaw 2,500 11+ tests for grammar school places. He explained that although the majority of parents were able to get the offer of a place at one of their top three preferences (90% of primary parents got their first choice, 97% one of their top three; 82% got their first choice secondary place and 94% one of their top three), strict entry criteria meant that unfortunately not everyone’s preference could be accommodated. There was an appeals process available, of which 8 per cent and 11 per cent had been successful in 2021 and 2022 respectively.
As a result of problems with the way the service had previously been delivered, the service introduced some fundamental and important changes to the in-year process ahead of the summer holidays, but this was not planned or executed effectively and led to some significant problems at the start of the school term. The challenge was exacerbated by very high volumes of applications, in part due to people moving into Warwickshire, and issues obtaining data on school places from schools which was not planned effectively. Rob Powell said the Chief Executive had commissioned a review of what had happened, to ensure the lessons were fully learned. This report was scheduled to be completed by February. He said communication had not been clear enough and responses had not been quick enough because of the volume of contacts, and he reiterated his earlier apology for the poor service. He reassured the Committee that once the issues were identified additional resources were put in place and the backlog of cases was able to be cleared relatively swiftly.
Members were told a new batch processing system had been implemented, which used auto-allocation, and would make the process faster, fairer and more transparent. This new approach relied upon receiving information from all schools about available places in a timely manner, with data from 99 schools missing in late August. Rob Powell said this had not happened in sufficient time. Once the issue ... view the full minutes text for item 4