Angry Ruddington parents have written a joint letter to our MP and to our newly elected Nottinghamshire County Councillors after their children were declined a place at Rushcliffe School in September 2021 – despite living in the catchment area and attending a feeder school.
Eight village families with a son or daughter currently in their final year at St Peter’s Junior School, who unsuccessfully appealed the decision to send their kids to South Wolds Academy in Keyworth instead, have now written to Rushcliffe MP Ruth Edwards, Cllr Reg Adair and Cllr Matt Barney to express their dismay at the current situation. It’s chiefly affected those living in the Musters Road, Barleylands and Pasture Lane Estates in Ruddington because they are the furthest from Rushcliffe School as the crow flies. This is despite the West Bridgford based academy being half the distance to travel from here compared with the allocated one in Keyworth.
The letter sent by the parents says: “The die is now cast, but it is not enough that we simply move on. Explanations need to be forthcoming. Those responsible cannot be allowed to think that this can now simply be pushed to one side. What has taken place here clearly reflects gross incompetence and we intend establishing if a case can be made for malfeasance. Someone needs to be accountable. This is far from over.”
The granting of permission by Rushcliffe Borough Council (RBC) for thousands of new homes around West Bridgford, and Ruddington before any new schools have been built, is being blamed for pushing our village children out of what would, until recently, have been the automatic secondary school choice for Ruddington. Although plans were announced in March to expand Rushcliffe School, plus a new build school at Gamston, these are not expected to be ready for pupils until between 2023 and 2025.
Defending their approval of all these new houses, an RBC spokesperson Tweeted: “When we deal with a planning application for a major development we consult the County Council and the education department feed into the response. Any potential capacity issues are raised at this point and how they may be mitigated. The planning committee then assess if the mitigation plans outlined at that time are sufficient when considering any development.”
The parents’ letter to our MP and the County Councillors points out: “Developers are required under the 2008 Planning Act and various amendments to pay a Civil Infrastructure Levy in order that local infrastructure, including education, can be improved in a way that allows new developments to take place without inflicting harm or disadvantage to existing residents. In the case of educational provisions one would assume that the Levy would be available in good time to provide capacity to support the new influx through every stage of education. Has the Levy been paid, and what has happened to it? Why are the benefits of the Levy not apparent?”
It continues: “Should any transitional issues have arisen, these should have been brought to the attention of residents and in particular the users of the affected schools. It appears that no such issues have been raised. Pupils and parents have been left to believe that existing school capacity would accommodate the increase in numbers. The worst aspect of all of this is the total lack of openness and any advanced warning. Considerable stress and distress has been caused to the extent of affecting the wellbeing and mental health of those affected. Furthermore many hours of fruitless work has been consumed by those engaged and responding to the many appeals that have been lodged. Hardly good use of resources when proper forward planning and a meaningful supply of information could have mitigated much of the time and stress involved.”
The affected parents are receiving the support of Ruddington Borough Councillors Mike Gaunt and Jen Walker. Cllr Walker says: “Mike and I have been clear throughout – we feel that after what has been a very traumatic year for the young people in our community where they have been asked to sacrifice their education, isolate from their friends and have had all their clubs and social activities cancelled we have a moral obligation to allow them to continue their education with their peers from the village they call home. The entire community feels let down by the devastating news that ten of our children did not get places with their lifelong friends at Rushcliffe Academy and many now fear the lack of places, caused by the huge influx of new housing, will be the fate for other children coming up through the year groups.”
Cllr Gaunt agrees: “This ‘bulge of pupils’ coming through the system has been very clear for many years and should have been factored in long ago with provision made for the Ruddington children. It is now very apparent that the threat of a shortage in places was not acted upon by the County Council despite petition from the Head Teacher of Rushcliffe school two years ago. This is a complete dereliction of duty by our County Councillors and, after successfully running for re-election, it is high time that Reg Adair answered to the community and made it very clear what discussions have taken place and exactly what he has done to try and resolve the problem. Surely there is still time to sort this problem out? What seems to be lacking is political will and a lack of proper accountability. We must get this right for these children as forcing them to be educated outside of their community catchment school after such a difficult two years is not a remotely suitable outcome.”
The Head of St Peter’s School, Michael Bradley, says: “I am extremely disappointed to hear the news that several of our families, who had not been offered a place at Rushcliffe School for their children, were unsuccessful in their appeal. However, we are determined to now work closely with South Wolds Academy to ensure that those children impacted have an extremely positive transition from primary to secondary school. In the meantime, I would urge both Rushcliffe Academy and Nottinghamshire County Council to quickly find a solution to this problem so that no more of our families have to go through this ordeal.”
The Ruddington parents’ letter concludes: “This situation will continue and adversely affect the children of Ruddington due to the distance from Rushcliffe school until more funding for places is made available. Thankfully places have been secured for our children at South Wolds Academy despite us falling into their last admission category ‘Any other children’. With the increased housing in Keyworth and Cotgrave for how long can South Wolds continue to provide places for children living in West Bridgford and Ruddington?”
The residents have already received a response from Ruth Edwards MP, expressing her sorrow to hear of the difficulties some parents have experienced in getting a school place. She is promising to write to the Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire County Council and ask him to look into this matter as an official complaint. She says she will ask him to specifically address the concerns raised, as well as the broad question of places for Ruddington’s children.
Meantime, our two Ruddington County Councillors have yet to reply to the residents’ letter. However RUDDINGTON.info has received this response from Councillor Tracey Taylor, the Chair of the Nottinghamshire County Council Children and Young People’s Committee.
She says: “Rushcliffe School is an academy and therefore is responsible for its own admissions in accordance with its published admission number. The County Council does not manage the appeals process for this academy, and the School Admissions Code 2014 prohibits admission authorities giving any guarantee that a place will be allocated at any school. We strongly advise parents to check the admission over-subscription criteria for their preferred schools before they apply and to include at least one school within their four preferences where their child will have a high priority within the admission over-subscription criteria.”
Cllr Taylor continues: “On National Offer Day this year, of the 94 children attending St Peter’s CE Junior School (Ruddington) who applied on time, 80 were offered their first preference, 88 were offered one of their preferences and there were six families who listed just one preference and who did not receive that single preference. The Council has committed to investing in creating more school places, and continues to be in negotiations with the Rushcliffe Academy to ensure that the academy’s plans for expansion can be funded. We have asked the Rushcliffe Academy to formally expand by three forms of entry, allowing its intake to rise from 270 to 360 places as demand continues to grow.”
The County Council also advises that if parents are unhappy about the way an appeal for an academy has been conducted (not the decision itself) they have the right to complain to the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA). This can be done online via www.gov.uk or by telephoning 0370 000 2288.
Meantime, parents of the children now set to go to South Wolds Academy in September – and those with kids already attending – tell us they are in the process of trying to secure a better bus route from Ruddington. The current ‘free’ bus route takes passengers via Wymeswold and takes approximately 40 minutes each way. Whilst there is also a direct bus service to South Wolds Academy from Ruddington High Street, pupils have to pay.
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