Church schools admission rules changes proposed
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Practising Church of England families may no longer be given priority at oversubscribed C of E schools in Suffolk under new county council plans, it has emerged.
Suffolk County Council has launched a consultation on proposed changes to school admission criteria, which would apply to the 2023/24 academic year intake onwards.
Currently practising Church of England families, or any other church under the Worldwide Anglican Communion, get priority in oversubscribed voluntary controlled (VC) schools if they have been Christians for a year or more prior to the school admission closing date.
But the new arrangements propose removing those grounds for priority in oversubscribed VC schools, and would instead leave families considered in line with other children living in the catchment area or out of catchment.
According to the council, arrangements were made for the 2021/22 school year at the request of the diocese so that practising families unable to attend church because of Covid-19 could continue to be given priority for school places under the existing arrangements.
Consultation on that for 2022/23 generated 18 responses, 15 of which expressed concerns over equalities and inclusion based on that measure.
The council’s consultation report said: “In response to this, we have worked with the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Board of Education to review these criteria.
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“Collectively, we believe that the time is right to consult on the future of the religious criteria for the 2023/2024 school year.
“To put this into perspective, very few children are allocated places at voluntary controlled schools under these criteria.”
In the latest admission process, families of nine children applied under that priority criteria, but just one was offered a place they would not have gained under criteria around distance from the establishment anyway. However, that instance meant a child was displaced who, while not living in the catchment area, was closer to the school.
A spokesman for the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “The Diocesan Board of Education supports this consultation and encourages parents to respond.”
The other change to admissions criteria is a reduction in published admission numbers for Heath Primary School in Kesgrave from 90 pupils to 60.
The consultation is open until Friday, November 12.
To find out more and take part visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/consultations or call 0345 600 0981 to request a paper copy.