Talks on school admission policy

RADICAL plans to overhaul the admissions policy to allow all brothers and sisters to go to the same primary schools could finally be decided tomorrow.

Hartlepool Borough Council wants to bring in the changes after a rise in the number of siblings being separated, with parents forced to transport children to different parts of town.

The changes would give siblings priority over those who live nearest or within the school’s admission zone.

But the overhaul – described as the biggest for over a decade – caused concern among some councillors who called the decision in for scrutiny.

That also led to a debate at a recent meeting of the full council.

Now the decision is back before independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, for her to either reconsider or reaffirm.

That meeting will take place at the Civic Centre tomorrow morning.

Last year there were 14 cases of children separated from their brothers and sisters and the proposals aim to keep families together and avoid unnecessary upheaval.

But Conservative group leader councillor Ray Wells described it as “fundamentally wrong” to exclude children whose parents live within the school’s admission zone in favour of those children that potentially live miles away from the school but have siblings there.

Labour councillor Marjorie James submitted the call-in request on his behalf back in April.

Despite the department receiving a number of positive emails about the changes, concerned councillors raised concerns the full consequences had not been made clear at governors’ meetings.

Education chiefs have previously said admissions is an area where it is impossible to please everyone as there are simply not enough places to go around.

They said they felt this was the fairest way.

The changes would only apply to community and voluntary controlled primary schools and not voluntary aided schools, which manage their own admissions.

It would come into effect when there are more applications for a school than there are places.

In total, there are 30 primary schools in town, including one voluntary controlled and 19 community schools which will be affected.

There are 10 voluntary aided – four Church of England and six Roman Catholic schools – which will not be affected.

The new rules would apply for the 2013-14 academic year.

A council report said the portfolio meeting was being held to “conclude the call-in process” and allow Coun Hill to reconsider or reaffirm the decision.

The portfolio meeting is due to take place tomorrow at 9am at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road.