School Joy for St Peter’s Pupils

Children attending St Peter’s C of E Junior School are celebrating the news that they should be able to stay with their friends when they move up to ‘big’ school this September.*

*Please see the update below.

It’s after the Principal of Rushcliffe Spencer Academy (‘Rushcliffe School’) in West Bridgford confirmed that sufficient places for September 2022 have been made available for all Ruddington’s current Year 6 pupils. The announcement comes as music to the ears of families who were anxious that their kids might have to attend other secondary schools further afield instead, which happened to a number of Ruddington children last year.

Historically, parents in our village have usually selected Rushcliffe School as their first preference on Nottinghamshire County Council‘s annual application form. However, last September, the children of new residents in thousands of recently built houses at Edwalton and Wilford appeared to receive priority for places at Rushcliffe School over pupils here in Ruddington. That resulted in some village families only getting their second preference of South Wolds Academy in Keyworth – meaning at least two daily round trips of around twelve miles from here, rather than six.

Rushcliffe Spencer Academy has submitted a proposal to the Department for Education to expand the number of places it can provide. This will include 12 forms of entry, taking the total number of pupil places across all years to 2,310 including Sixth Form.

Damian Painton, the Principal of Rushcliffe says: “I’m delighted that plans to develop the Rushcliffe Spencer Academy site are progressing well with support from colleagues at Nottinghamshire County Council and Ruth Edwards MP making the case in Parliament. Primarily, this project will create much needed school places in the Rushcliffe area but it will also ensure that pupils and community groups can benefit from access to outstanding facilities.”

In a letter to parents, St Peter’s School headteacher Michael Bradley reveals: “I am delighted that Mr Painton has today confirmed that sufficient places for September 2022 have been made available for all of our Year 6 pupils living in the Rushcliffe catchment at the time of their application.”

He continues: “Going forward, it remains Rushcliffe Spencer Academy’s desire to continue to adapt their numbers to accommodate all of our pupils living in catchment. This is extremely positive news which I know will be welcomed by many of our families.”

Mr Bradley

However, his correspondence also includes a consultation documentation from South Wolds Academy about their admission arrangements in 2023-24. Within it, the Academy is listing St Peter’s Junior School as a ‘linked school’ for the first time – as well as proposing to change their catchment to include Ruddington.

Mr Bradley adds: “As a school, we remain committed to our long-standing partnership with Rushcliffe Spencer Academy and we have been reassured by both Nottinghamshire County Council and Rushcliffe Spencer Academy that this will have no impact on that relationship. Rushcliffe Spencer Academy continues to see St Peter’s as an important part of their family of schools.”

Ruddington mum Rebecca Collison, who already has one child at Rushcliffe School and another in the final year at St Peter’s, tells us: “While I am really pleased to hear the commitment from Mr Painton to making enough places available at Rushcliffe Spencer Academy for September 2022 for Year 6 pupils at St Peter’s School who live in catchment, the journey to this point has been more difficult than it ought to have been and comes too late for the Ruddington families refused a place at the school in 2021, even after going through the appeal process”.

She continues: “It’s really concerning that the central planning for the provision of sufficient secondary and further education places to meet the needs of children living in Rushcliffe is in such a state. Even more disappointing has been the lack of any direct engagement with me on this issue from Nottinghamshire County Councillors Reg Adair and Matt Barney, when on their election manifesto leaflet they claimed that ‘more school places for our local children’ was a priority. Mr Bradley and Councillor Jen Walker have both been incredibly proactive in moving this issue forward and the meeting Jen and I had with Mr Painton at the end of 2021 was also hugely helpful.”

Cllr Jen Walker

Cllr Jen Walker agrees that it’s been a very difficult time: “Please be assured that I have been working hard and meeting with head teachers to try and get clarity for residents and we are very pleased to have some concrete assurances from Rushcliffe School” she says. “I have had a lot of parents asking me about school places for their children and the uncertainty has been stressful for all involved, I’m sure many will be breathing a sigh of relief having received their letter last week.”

Fellow Labour Rushcliffe Borough Councillor, Mike Gaunt, favours future arrangements remaining as they are: “South Wolds Academy is equal in provision to Rushcliffe School, however the house building that has led to issues around school places has given our community specific secondary provision funds through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CiL)” he explains. “If that money is going to Rushcliffe Spencer Academy Trust to expand its provision, then ALL the children of Ruddington should be attending the Rushcliffe Spencer Academy. For me this is not about ranking schools, nor about parental choice, but rather it is about ensuring that all children in our community are able to attend their local school with their peers and that school should also be the establishment that has benefitted from CiL. In Ruddington, that is Rushcliffe Academy.”

Meantime, Ruddington’s two Conservative Nottinghamshire County Councillors are denying they failed to engage with others on this important issue. Cllr Matt Barney tells us: “Following my election in May, I was very sorry to hear of the difficulties faced in securing first choice school places for some children and families in Ruddington. As a father of four myself, and having met with some of the families concerned, I know just how difficult this has been and I have sincere sympathy. I continue to liaise with the officers responsible for education and am available to talk to any families going forward that have ongoing concerns. The County are making £19 million funding commitments to provide additional school places in Ruddington. As it stands allocations for September 2022 are yet to be made, but I will be available to work with and support any families in Ruddington.”

However, Cllr Reg Adair sounds a warning that Mr Painton’s assurances to Ruddington parents that all current Year 6 village children will be accommodated at Rushcliffe School this autumn may be a little premature: “Some schools in the County are popular and attract high levels of applications leading to oversubscription. In all cases, applications for school places must be processed in line with the School Admissions Code and it is not possible to give any guarantee that an application will be successful” he explains.

“Places are allocated using the published criteria for each school. The County Council has made significant progress working collaboratively with the Spencer Academy Trust regarding the expansion of Rushcliffe Spencer Academy and the academy has committed to offering 300 places for September 2022. The Council and the Trust will continue to monitor the situation across the district. ‘National Offer Day’ is 1st March 2022 and it is therefore legally impossible to provide any information or assurances at this time” says Cllr Adair.

MP for Rushcliffe, Ruth Edwards, has also spoken to about the situation. She says: “I know that securing a place at Rushcliffe School is of great concern to many parents and children in Ruddington. I have been working with Ruddington’s local County Councillors and with Rushcliffe School to look for quick ways to tackle this problem. I am delighted that Rushcliffe School has applied to the Department of Education to expand the number of places it can offer.”

She adds: “I have secured an urgent meeting with the Minister next week to push the school’s case and will continue to support the expansion in any way I can.”

*UPDATE 21st JAN 2022:

Rushcliffe’s Member of Parliament has confirmed she met this week with Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, to highlight the importance of this application and how vital this is for local families.

Ruth Edwards MP reveals she then met with the Minister for the School System, Baroness Barran to discuss the issue in more detail. “Getting a local school place is a hugely important issue for local children and their parents, and is a top priority for me as the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe” she says. “I left the Secretary of State for Education in no doubt of the importance of this issue and pressed him hard to ensure that an early decision would be made in this case. I am grateful to him and to Baroness Barran for taking the time to meet with me.”

MP Ruth Edwards with Nadhim Zahawi

Ruth adds: “I would like to thank Rushcliffe Spencer School for their hard work in improving local school place provision and our County Councillors Reg Adair and Matthew Barney for all their hard work on this issue.”

However, some Ruddington mums remain unimpressed by our MP’s efforts. Rebecca Collison responds: “Nice try. Unfortunately you are a bit too late to the party (or work event?) this time. If you had replied to my emails and letters on this subject you might have been able to help residents when we needed it. We managed to sort this without you!”

Michelle Gelsthorpe adds: “Where was Ruth Edwards MP when we (the parents of the 11 children completely let down last year after being refused a place with their friends) asked for her help? She stated she could not and would not help. She also said she would get back to us when we where desperately contacting her for help last March. We are still waiting…….. it is too late! She failed our children.”

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