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Schools band together to change their admissions policy

PUBLISHED: 10:40 18 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:41 07 September 2010

STAFF at Camden's comprehensive secondary schools are banding together to make the admissions system fairer. Education bosses at the Town Hall are looking to change the way schools recruit pupils

Ben McPartland

STAFF at Camden's comprehensive secondary schools are banding together to make the admissions system fairer.

Education bosses at the Town Hall are looking to change the way schools recruit pupils.

And next week an Admissions Forum of teaching staff, governors and councillors will meet to discuss the various options.

Staff at Camden's community schools - Haverstock, Parliament Hill, Hampstead, South Camden and Acland Burghley - want a banding system to be introduced where equal numbers of pupils are accepted in four ability ranges.

Hampstead school on Westbere Road has backed the idea, as has Acland Burghley headteacher Michael Shew.

But he admits his board of governors are split on the issue.

He said: "We are discussing this as a governing board at the moment and I think the fairest thing to say is there is a range of views.

"Some of them think banding is a good idea and others are more cautious.

"My personal view is that if we are having a new academy and with some schools already having banding then it is probably the fairest option. But nothing is without disadvantages."

Chairman of Haverstock school's governors Jim Mulligan said: "We want a level playing field. When I worked at Ilea (Inner London Education Authority) they had banding and it worked brilliantly. We had a full range of children in the classes and we had a really good balance. That wouldn't have happened if we didn't have banding."

At the moment primary pupils apply for a place in secondary school by putting down six options in order of preference.

Pupils with older brothers and sisters at a secondary are given priority along with those living nearest the school.

Camden School for Girls, a voluntary aided secondary in Kentish Town, already has a banding system and regularly achieves some of the best results in the borough.

The Town Hall is desperate to relieve the pressure for the annual scramble for places.

Only 47 per cent of secondary school age pupils living in Camden go to a comprehensive school in the borough with the rest going private or being educated outside of Camden.

University College London is due to open a new academy in Swiss Cottage in 2011 and bosses at UCL are also known to prefer a banding system.

Governors at the comprehensive schools fear the academy would be able to recruit the brightest kids in the area.

Chairman of the Camden branch of union NUT Kevin Courtney said: "We are in favour of a system which leads to the best mixture in all of Camden's schools.

"There are some downsides to banding in that sometimes schools never fill up the top bands. There needs to be a full consultation about this and we need to make sure we don't have a system whereby the academy can cream off the best kids."

Camden school's chief Andrew Mennear said: "We are just starting out on this process of reviewing the way in which admissions are working.

"I want to have a good look at all the different ways of doing it.

"For a number of years the council has held the view that the system could be improved upon."

ben.mcpartland@hamhigh.co.uk

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