Newport school ‘guarantee’ at risk as catchment areas could be dropped
12:50pm Friday 1st February 2013 in News
PUPILS in Newport may have to go to their nearest secondary school rather than their catchment area in a potential shake-up to admissions.
Proposals to scrap the guarantee that a child can go to a secondary school in their catchment area from September 2014 are currently being considered by cabinet member Bob Poole.
Newport council is the only authority in Wales that provides a guarantee.
Meanwhile Cllr Poole is also considering whether to make changes to free school transport, by increasing the distance criteria for the service.
Both issues are the subject of confidential reports, seen by the Argus, which propose the matters are put out to public consultation.
Newport council currently runs a secondary school admissions policy which includes a catchment guarantee.
It means parents living within a catchment area for a school are given a guarantee that their children will receive a place.
But a council report on the matter says that as a result many year groups in Bassaleg School, Caerleon Comprehensive School and St Julian’s School are oversubscribed, in some cases by between 30 and 50 pupils per year group.
“There are significant surplus places in the remaining four secondary schools,” the report reads.
It added: “The council is frequently in the position at School Appeals Panels where solicitors acting for parents/ carers challenge the legality and fairness of the current policy.”
If the guarantee is lifted the document says there could be potential transport savings as pupils “attend their nearest rather than catchment school”.
The earliest the change could come into force would be September 2014, the report added.
Both reports have been classed as “part 2” – meaning they are not in the public domain.
● A Newport council spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports as they are not “public information”.
She said the reports are for consultation with councillors who are asked to review them and comment, ahead of a cabinet member making a decision.
Pupil transport proposals
SOME 650 fewer pupils over the next five years could get free school transport in Newport if proposals are approved by Cllr Bob Poole.
The cabinet member is considering putting out to consultation plans to increase the distance criteria of free school transport for 11 to 16 year olds from two to three miles.
In 2009 the Tory-led council reduced the criteria from three to two miles, increasing the cost of the policy by £318,500 per year.
But it is thought the council could open itself up to legal challenge if entitlement to free school transport is withdrawn during a pupil’s education at a particular school.
Instead a confidential report says that officers believe a safer option is to phase the policy in for all new 11 year olds starting secondary education in September 2014.