Children of staff at Preston schools could get places priority under new proposals

Posted on - 9th November, 2023 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Education, Politics, Schools
County Hall in Preston, home of Lancashire County Council
County Hall in Preston

The children of staff working at local authority schools in Lancashire could get priority for admission over some others, under plans being considered by Lancashire County Council.

County Hall is set to carry out a public consultation on a proposed change to the criteria for how it allocates places to pupils when a school has received more applications than it has available capacity.

The suggested tweak to the arrangements for dealing with oversubscribed schools would also see a level of priority being given to the children of armed forces personnel.

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It is hoped that prioritising the children of school staff would help in the recruitment and retention of teachers.  A meeting of the county council’s cabinet at which the consultation was approved heard that representations had been received from several primary and secondary headteachers requesting the move for that very reason.

The changes would affect the 235 so-called “community schools” operated by the authority – namely, maintained establishments or voluntary controlled schools.

However, many of the other schools in the county that set their own admissions criteria – like academies and diocesan church schools – have already taken the same step since it was permitted in new national rules, leaving county council-run schools at risk of being disadvantaged in the search for staff.

As part of the proposed change, children of staff would take third spot in the admissions criteria and pupils entitled to the “Services Premium” – because of one or both of their parents’ work in the forces – would slot in behind in fourth.

That would still leave the newly-prioritised groups behind looked-after children and those deemed to have “exceptional medical social or welfare reasons” – but ahead of children with siblings at the school and, finally, those considered for admission on the basis of the distance between the school and where they live.

Papers presented to the cabinet state: “Giving priority to children of staff within the admission criteria may encourage applicants who live outside the area and school staff may be less likely to look for other jobs if their children are being educated at the school where they work.”

In order to be eligible for the new priority ranking for their children, staff would either have to have been employed at the school for at least two years at the time the application was made or have been recruited to fill a post where there is “a demonstrable skill shortage”.

Cabinet member for education and skills Jayne Rear added:  “It is known that the location and access to schools for their children can influence the decision of teachers and support staff when applying for a post.

“Including children eligible for [the] Services Premium will enable us to support armed forces families, acknowledging not only the service their patents provide in defence of our country, but also the educational-related disadvantages that can arise for children that are obliged to move with their families to postings all around the country and overseas – sometimes at very short notice.”

The consultation will run from 10th November until 22nd December and, if the changes are ultimately approved, they will come into force from September 2025.

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