Helen Bates, assistant director of the Diocesan Schools Service, spoke to the Council’s Children and Education Scrutiny Committee, on December 17, explaining about admission arrangements, the excellent record of Catholic schools across East Anglia and the plan to serve local children.
This is what she told the committee:
“We are aware that the greatest concern being expressed about a new Catholic primary school in Hampton is the possibility of local non-Catholic children not getting a place at the school. It was in response to this concern that the Diocese made the decision to allocate one-fifth of places in the first year to children on the basis of proximity to the school.
“We refer to these as ‘open’ places. These places will only be needed if there are more children wanting a place at the school than there are places available. We don’t think this will be the case. The intention at the moment is to open with three classes each with 30 places, in the nursery, reception year and in Y1/2.
“The City Council’s own forecast figures suggest that there will be less than this number of children living in the development by September 2022 who would be unable to access a local place if this school didn’t open. However, we are aware that pupil numbers can change quickly in a new housing development like Hampton East, which is why we have introduced the one-fifth open places. If pupil numbers increase significantly between now and 2022, we will work with the City Council to decide whether more than three classes need to open in the first year. Eventually the school is expected to have three classes in every year group.
“Catholic schools, like most primary schools, overwhelmingly serve local children. Our analysis of September 2019 data has indicated that in our other Peterborough Catholic primary schools, 89% of children at Sacred Heart and 92% of children at St Thomas More live less than 2 miles away from their school and most of these live less than 1 mile away. At primary age in particular, very few parents will allow their children to travel great distances to get to school. Catholic parents are no different.
“We have been asked why we have only introduced the open places for the first year. Legally, admission arrangements can only be published a year at a time. Like all schools, the Governing Body of the new school will have to decide its admission arrangements every year and consult widely if they propose to change it from previous years.
“The Diocese will require the Governing Body to closely analyse every year where the children that are admitted and refused a place at the school live, to see whether a significant number of local children are unable to get a place at the school. Similarly, it will also be required to assess whether a significant number of Catholic children are not getting a place at the school. This information will inform whether the admissions policy needs to change in the subsequent years after opening. It will also help decide when is the best time for more classes to open in the school.
“Finally, we do not apologise for the fact we are proposing to open a new Church school in Hampton. The Diocese is offering a choice to parents who wish for a school with a Christian ethos that is tolerant and respectful of children and parents of all faiths or none.
“We are experienced providers of education with a track record of working closely with our local communities. We have 28 schools in the Diocese and none of them has an inadequate Ofsted rating. Our schools achieve these standards with a high percentage of pupils with English as an additional language (EAL), Pupil Premium Pupils and SEND pupils, the vast majority of whom are local children. We are proud of our schools and their inclusive approach within the communities they serve and excited about the opportunities a new Catholic school will bring,” said Helen.
Pictured above are pupils at St Thomas More Catholic Primary School in Peterborough during a recent visit to the school by the Papal Nuncio.