September 21 2014 Latest news:
by Imogen Blake
Thursday, August 14, 2014
A highly sought-after comprehensive school has vociferously denied any wrongdoing after it was ruled to have breached government guidelines for allegedly offering places in return for a fee.
Prospective pupils at Camden School for Girls were told they were “required” to pay a £100 deposit for a school trip and learning resources in a letter offering them a conditional sixth-form place.
A ruling from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator said the wording “implied” that priority of places would be given to Year 12 students who paid the fee.
But the chairman of the school’s board of governors, Janet Pope, said it had never demanded money in return for places at its coveted mixed sixth-form and that places had not been withdrawn if the school trip deposit was not paid.
Ms Pope, who spoke to the Ham&High on behalf of headteacher Elizabeth Kitcatt, said: “This is a bit of a storm in a teacup. The deposit was a response to parents asking to pay for a school trip in the first few weeks of term in instalments, rather than in one go.”
Ms Pope, who has sat on the board of governors for 17 years, added: “If in anybody’s mind this could have been construed as paying for a school place then we are happy to clear up that misunderstanding.
“We were slightly dumbfounded as to how anyone could think that. It couldn’t be further from the truth.”
The school, in Sandall Road, Camden Town, is consistently among the top state secondaries for GCSE and A-level results in north London, and is heavily oversubscribed.
It has now changed its admissions policy to make clear that places are not dependant on the deposit.
Schools adjudicator Ann Talboys reviewed the admissions policy following a complaint from a parent in March and found the £100 deposit breached the Schools Admissions Code.
In her report, she wrote: “I am of the view that as the deposit is ‘required’ and must be sent to the school with the acceptance of the conditional place in the sixth form, it can easily be perceived as being part of the admission arrangements.
“I am also of the view that, as the returns must all be made at the same time, the letter implies that if the deposit is not forthcoming then the place may not be offered which is contrary to the code... as it would be giving priority to students who do pay the deposit.”
The code states that schools must not “request financial contributions” during the admissions process, nor give priority of places to students on the basis of financial support.
The school has made all necessary changes and its admissions policy has been signed off personally by Mrs Talboys.