Council turns to parent power in bid for fairer school admissions

Parents have no input in selection process. Picture: PA
Parents have no input in selection process. Picture: PA
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parents are to help write the rule book on school admissions under a new drive to make the process fairer and more transparent. They will be consulted on policies governing how staff manage placing requests from mums and dads who do not live in a school’s catchment area but want to enrol children.

The move is aimed at providing greater say over a system which parent leaders say leaves families feeling “stressed” and “frustrated”.

Education bosses confirm the policy each year before waiting lists for each school are finalised. But under new recommendations, admission rules – covering criteria such as the presence of older siblings at school, whether a child lives in a single-parent family and the impact of medical issues – will be reviewed periodically and opened to full public consultation.

Across Edinburgh, nearly 1100 P1 placing requests were received ahead of the 2013-14 session, with more than half of these turned down and many popular schools closing their doors completely to non-
catchment children.

There were also 261 appeals against a decision to refuse an out-of-catchment request, of which only 46 were upheld.

Nicola Clark-Tonberg, chair of Broughton Primary parent council, whose seven-year-old son is about to start P4, said families would welcome moves towards a clearer and more accessible set-up.

She said: “I know of one parent in particular at the school who went through the [placing request] process and had one child on a waiting list and I know that it was hugely frustrating.

“It can be very stressful waiting to find out what the decision is when you have no input in the process. Anything that makes it more transparent and lets parents feel they have some input, rather than it being something that just happens to them, is a good thing.”

She added: “What I’ve also heard from parents is that it feels like the process has been designed to be intimidating on something that’s very emotional, and that makes the whole process even more difficult.”

Earlier this year, the Evening News revealed how P1 placing request refusals hit a record high in 2013 amid soaring birth rates and in-catchment demand. City leaders have also begun a dialogue with the Scottish Government in a bid to tighten up regulations.

They want to see the rules changed so that out-of-catchment requests can be refused if every P1 class in a school has reached the legal limit of 25 or 30 if there are team teachers.

Education bosses said their revamp was aimed at bringing school admissions into line with how other areas of council policy are managed.

A spokesman said: “This is a positive development as it means the process will be more transparent for parents and make it clearer on how out-of-catchment places are allocated.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com