Catchment areas to be scrapped for Leighton Buzzard lower schools?


Admission rules for lower schools in Leighton Buzzard are in line for a major shake-up under proposals by Central Bedfordshire Council which would see catchment areas axed.

Leighton Buzzard is currently divided into catchment areas for its 11 lower schools but that could soon change as CBC considers adopting a new ‘nearest school’ policy.

In its consultation document, CBC noted that there were problems with the current system.

The report stated: “Maintaining catchment areas is currently an administrative burden ... by having to check boundaries and make amendments when there is a new housing development or new schools built. The nearest school policy removes this burden.”

The document added: “Some addresses have three or four catchment lower schools which give some families higher priority for admission to a number of schools.

“The number of children living in the catchment area for Greenleas School, Kestrel Way far outweighs the number of places at the school.

“[This] creates unrealistic expectations for parents and distress when they are not allocated a place.”

To address these issues, the proposed admissions criteria is as follows:

1) All ‘looked after’ children and children who were previously ‘looked after’.

2) Children with siblings at the school.

3) Children for whom the school is their nearest lower school

4) Any other children.

The report adds that distance would be judged by a “straight line” from the child’s home address to the nearest school, using the council’s computerised measuring system.

It states: “Each property

would have just one nearest school for which they would be a priority for admission if nominated on their school place application.

“Parents would be able to find out their nearest lower school by entering their address details in a tool on the School Admissions pages of the council’s website.”

The proposals, which do not impact on Pulford Lower as it is a faith school, will be discussed at a meeting of CBC’s executive committee next Tuesday. If approved, a public consultation on the proposals will then take place.

> Leighton Middle School wishes to add a “children of staff” criterion to its oversubscription rules.

It admits it may result in children from outside the town gaining a place at the school ahead of local (non catchment) children if staff living in other towns opt to apply for a place at Leighton Middle School.

But it says the school has had difficulty recruiting staff and therefore wishes to include the priority as an incentive to attract high quality staff. The change will also be debated at next week’s executive meeting.