It seems many village schoolchildren starting secondary school this September will have further to travel than anticipated – and also be separated from their friends – in the wake of ‘National Offer Day’ (Monday 1st March).
Since discovering the bad news online yesterday, or receiving their letters today, parents across Ruddington have been taking to social media in dismay. For many, their son or daughter will have to journey twelve miles to South Wolds Academy in Keyworth and back every day, rather than the expected six mile round trip to Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford like generations of Ruddington kids before them. Mostly these are pupils in their final year at St Peter’s Junior School, with many having grown up together in Ruddington since starting their education at James Peacock Infants School. Contact restrictions and home learning due to COVID-19 during the past eleven months have meant many of our youngsters seeing much less of their friends recently, so this is another unwelcome blow for children moving up to secondary school this year.
As Ruddington has no provision for teaching children aged eleven to eighteen, it is true that older village kids have always needed to travel. Historically, most parents here have selected Rushcliffe School as their first preference on Nottinghamshire County Council‘s annual application form. However, it appears that children of new residents in thousands of recently built houses at Edwalton and Wilford are now receiving priority for places at Rushcliffe School over those here in Ruddington. This means many village families have only got their second preference of South Wolds Academy instead. It also seems that residents to the southern end of Ruddington are less likely to get their kids into Rushcliffe School than those at the northern end.
Commenting on the Ruddington Mums Facebook page, Sam Ludlow says: “My eldest daughter went to Rushcliffe and I’ve lived in Ruddington for 18 years. I moved from Manor Park to the new estate and just presumed that both my other girls would get a place!” Laura Coxon adds: “It’s the children I feel for. I moved into the area for the schools, rightly or wrongly, and I’m sure most people with children factor that in.”
Gareth McManus says: “This is the chaos that all these new houses have caused. I would appeal and write to our MP and get this overturned. Children from Ruddington have always fed in to Rushcliffe and the council should think about school places before building houses everywhere.”
Stephanie Barlow, who is a teacher in West Bridgford, reveals: “The council have put tremendous pressure on West Bridgford School and Rushcliffe School to accommodate the extra children brought into the area by the developments in Wilford and Edwalton. Rushcliffe has been asked to go up to 14 forms of entry but hasn’t been given sufficient funding.”
Rushcliffe Borough Councillors Jen Walker and Mike Gaunt have issued a joint statement saying: “We’re devastated to hear that some of our young pupils from Ruddington have received the terrible news that they won’t be able to get a place at Rushcliffe school in September – despite Ruddington being in the historical catchment for Rushcliffe. After two badly disrupted years of their education this is the last thing these young people needed to hear and needs reversing immediately. We will do everything we can to ensure that these kids get to attend secondary school with their mates next year.”
St Peter’s head teacher, Michael Bradley, says his school is also trying to help: “Yesterday we were made aware that a small number of our Year 6 pupils had, unfortunately, not been offered a place at Rushcliffe School. We would urge any parent not happy with their school choice to lodge a formal appeal against the decision before the deadline later this month. In the meantime, we have asked to meet with the Local Authority as soon as possible in order to get some clarification on the situation.”
Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) has sent a response to RUDDINGTON.info saying that, in the Rushcliffe district, 90.4% of children have been offered their parents’ first preference secondary academy for this September, with 96% being offered one of their four preferences. However, the authority was either unable or unwilling to break down the figures any further, specifically for Ruddington. The raft of disappointed parents contacting us would seem to suggest it’s a significantly lower percentage here.
Councillor Phillip Owen, Chairman of NCC’s Children and Young People’s Committee, admits: “There is a number of children who live in the catchment area of Rushcliffe School and attend a linked primary school but who were not allocated a place at the preferred academy. This is because other children had higher priority within the oversubscription criteria. All schools in the Rushcliffe district are academies and are responsible for their own admissions and ranking applications in accordance with their published admission criteria. The School Admissions Code 2014 prohibits admission authorities giving any guarantee that a place will be allocated at any school.”
He reveals that, of the 1,418 families who live in the Rushcliffe district, only 57 were not allocated a place at any of their preferred academies whilst 35.1% had expressed only a single preference. Cllr Owen continues: “Nottinghamshire County Council has worked closely with academy trusts to support the offer of school places across the district in this ‘bulge year’ and additional places have been provided at The South Wolds Academy for the majority of these families. The Council has a commitment to ensure a sufficiency of school places and continues to work with academy trusts to provide secondary school places across the county – and has plans to expand Rushcliffe School in West Bridgford to meet demand for school places for September 2022, seeing an increase from 270 to 360 school places.”
With the building of a further 578 houses now underway on Ruddington’s former Green Belt boundaries, plus many thousands more in the schools’ catchment area, it is evident this expansion of school places can’t come soon enough.
Meantime, whilst some parents are expected to appeal the decision this year, and may be successful, others with children already at South Wolds Academy have nothing but praise for the Keyworth based school. Louise Schofield, who has a daughter there, says: “They have been amazing during this lockdown. She is very very happy. The curriculum is great, teaching staff fab. I would highly recommend it.” Louise adds: “They have been given a huge grant to upgrade the school with £1.6 million this year. The head is also lovely. Trust me, I know how you are all feeling today, and I was in utter shock, but twelve months later it feels like a distant memory.”
Nottinghamshire County Council is recommending that any Ruddington family which has been refused a place at their preferred school exercises its right to appeal. Further information about this appeals process is available at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/admissions or by contacting the preferred academy directly.
We’ll keep you posted with any further developments here at RUDDINGTON.info.