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Northamptonshire: We need a level playing field

Kirkbride Cllr Joan Kirkbride responds to this morning's article by Nick Seaton.

I was very disappointed to read Nick Seaton’s article in which he wrongly accused me of denying children from Northamptonshire Children the chance to attend a grammar school in Warwickshire.  Perhaps Mr Seaton was not aware of the facts behind this issue, but I am happy to explain the situation with regard to children from Northamptonshire applying for places at grammar schools in rugby.

To begin with it is important to note that The Admissions Forum, which is referred to in the article, is not a committee of the county council. It is in fact a group, set up in accordance with Government regulation, of education stakeholders in the county; this includes head teachers, governors and representatives of the church dioceses. However since February, because of the Government changes to the Forum’s constitution, no councillors are now allowed to be members of it.

The Forum was concerned that the 10 mile priority circle catchment area used by the selective schools in Rugby was arbitrary and unnecessary to meet the principles of the current School Admissions Code. It was also felt that it was inconsistent with the approach used by non-selective schools in the Rugby area and by grammar schools in other counties that border Northamptonshire.

He is correct to state that Northamptonshire currently has a comprehensive system, and we are proud of the achievements of our comprehensive schools which provide a good quality of education for pupils of all abilities.

However it was not the intention of the Northamptonshire Forum to restrict the right of parents to express their preference for particular schools. It was seeking an outcome that gave a level playing field for all schools in the area.

The Adjudicator agreed with the majority of the arguments made by the Northamptonshire Forum and he reached his decision after a very thorough analysis of the evidence and face-to-face meetings with the schools in Rugby and Warwickshire County Council.

Education in Northamptonshire has undergone a radical transformation since the Conservatives took control in 2005. We inherited an education service which was not achieving the results our children and young people deserved. Northamptonshire’s GCSE results were languishing at the bottom of the league table of our statistical neighbours. We have worked hard to improve our schools and drive forward increases in educational standards. The results of this work were seen last year when we saw significant improvements in our GCSE results.

The Conservatives in Northamptonshire are committed to raising standards and ensuring every child across the county is given an excellent education and the opportunity to succeed.


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