A senior Hampshire education official has said his comments about refusing school transfers on the Isle of Wight were not meant to take away parent choice.
Martin Goff, head of information, transport and admissions for the children’s services department, made the comments at the Schools Forum meeting on 19th July 2018.
Reduction in admission numbers
During a presentation on pupil admission numbers (PAN), he said due to a drop in pupil numbers, and surplus school places on the Isle of Wight, some schools would require a reduction in admission numbers.
For example, if a school has a PAN of 60, but only 37 pupils in reception, they cannot refuse a pupil transfer. However, PAN only applies to reception — not classes further up the school.
Mr Goff said it was likely applications made by parents for children to change schools in-year would be refused — even if the school appeared to have the PAN to accommodate it.
When likely to refuse
He told the forum:
“If a child has already got a place up the road and wants to change just because they have fallen out with a Year 4 teacher, I am quite likely to refuse that application, say the year group is full.
“It’s a tricky conversation to appeal, and I have to say to you honestly, I won’t win. But maybe if we just put up a bit of resistance the family won’t follow through on that school place and, staying where they are, that’s usually a better outcome for the child.”
Goff: “Not designed to remove parental choice”
However, Mr Goff clarified after the meeting that his comments were not designed to remove parental choice.
He said when schools had classes below their official admission number, there were not the resources to support additional children by putting on an extra class.
For example, if a reception class had a PAN of 60, but only recruited 30 children the school would only need to put on one class — the maximum class size is 30 pupils per teacher.
However, if a child tried to transfer into the class the following year, the school would technically be under PAN (31 out of 60), but the school would then be required to split the classes and hire another teacher — which may not be financially possible.
These cases often lost on appeal
Mr Goff said the reason these cases were often lost on appeal was because the panel considered the PAN to show there was space available, when in reality there was not.
Mr Goff said:
“It’s not that I am trying to keep children out of classes, it’s more that if I know my case is not going to win at appeal it’s not a great use of everyone’s time, so we try to stop it getting to that point.”
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some additions by OnTheWight. Ed