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Letter to Editor: The problem with school places

Politics / Wed 7th Feb 2018 am28 11:41am

Education Harlow

Dear Sir,

I take exception to Chris Vince’s letter “The problem with academies” (11th January) due to its inaccuracy. Perhaps Mr Vince does not live in Harlow and does not understand the issues – if he had bothered to actually ask someone in education in Harlow, he would have found that the problem of school places has been around for a long time, well before academies came into being – perhaps the old adage of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story jumps to mind!

Harlow’s problem with school places is not dissimilar to many other places around the country. It is not helped here by the uneven spread of schools across the town. It may also be that some schools are more popular than others. Although schools would like to get young people in their first choice, all these factors inevitably result in some parents/carers being disappointed that they don’t get their preference. However, it is not an issue that can be put on the shoulders of academisation.

When there is over-subscriptions (more pupils applying than there are places), admissions policies come into play. The criteria for Harlow secondary schools are very similar. Passmores (where I am a former governor and now a member) does not have a catchment area. I do not think any Harlow secondary has a defined catchment apart from Stewards as they are the named school for the outlying villages and it was in place before Academies existed.

Mr Vince’s protestations that academies are evil, being the ‘privatisation’ of schools and like ‘pyramid selling’ are all not only unsubstantiated and ill-conceived, they are the deliberate and unnecessary use of sensationalist language aimed to alarm the public. It is pure electioneering, which I am sure most Harlow residents will see straight through.

With best wishes
Michael Hardware

Michael Hardware is Essex County Councillor for Harlow West. He was a Governor at Passmores Academy from 2009 until 2017 when he become a Member of the Passmores Cooperative Learning Community which includes Passmores Academy, Purford Green and Potter Street primary schools

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3 Comments for Letter to Editor: The problem with school places:

tony edwards
2018-02-09 00:00:56

Firstly Chris Vince does live in Harlow. He lives in the Little Parndon and Hare Street Ward Secondly the reason why there is uneven spread of schools across the town is due in large part to a decision by the County Council to close Brays Grove School in 2008, and subsequently to relocate Passmores school to the old Brays Grove sit in 2012. As some argued at the time the demographic evidence did not support these decisions and we are paying for the consequences of them now. Academisation has further complicated matters as it has diminished considerably the powers the Education Authority has to manage demand effectively.

mehardware
2018-02-11 13:36:15

So, you are agreeing with me that Chris Vince blaming academies for the problem is, in fact, wrong. Essex County cannot have control over school demand as that is down to population trends and local council policies on development, it does however have responsibility for school supply, extending existing schools and providing new ones to meet changing demand. The location of these is not that easy as it depends on the availability of suitable sites. The problem in Harlow currently is the popularity and performance of schools, with parents understandably choosing the best or most popular which may not always be the closest. Oversubscribed schools then need to select, which is usually, understandably, based on geography.

tony edwards
2018-02-23 20:02:24

Interestingly a National Audit Office Report has recently stated the high proportion of secondary schools that are academies means that it is difficult for councils to take an “integrated, whole-system approach to the education of children in their area.”

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