Response to contributors about the Maiden Erlegh catchment

 

             The contributions to this debate have exposed the disagreements between residents, based on  the understandable consideration of whether their children will be able to go to the school or not as a result of the changes.

              I regarded this as a local issue which should be settled by Councillors. They have the power to make the decision, and the officers and consultants to help them make it. As MP I am given no power and no such assistance to settle these matters.

             During the consultation process by the Council I did intervene at the request of constituents. Appreciating the division of opinion between constituents depending on where they lived, I confined my intervention to arguing that the Council should maximise the number of Wokingham Borough children attending. Reading children can go to their expensive new Academy recently provided. I intervened on this issue because it was the view of most of my constituents. I needed to counter the representations made by the MP for Reading East who was putting forward the views of some of his constituents who wished to send their children to Maiden Erlegh.

               The decision to overturn the Council’s decision by the Secretary of State has meant that a local matter has become a matter settled  nationally.  The losers from the Secretary of State’s decision are naturally upset by his action. I  am unhappy that the Secretary of State has interfered, as I have been assured by Ministers that they believe in localism and wish elected Councils to make these sorts of decisions. I am therefore taking  this up with him, as I wish to understand why it happened and whether this will be a future pattern, the statements on localism notwithstanding.  

                 It is for the Council to decide if it wishes to take legal action to challenge the revised decision. Councillor Pauline Jorgensen is asking a question in Council and will be following up. It would take a successful legal challenge to overturn the latest decision.

 

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44 Comments

  1. Andy
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    It is clear that a number of respondents expressing concern about your involvement wanted to re-run the issues and discussion dealt with in the WBC consultation.

    I am sure they will not be so supportive of this type of action by central government in the future when they overrule a local decision that they agree with.

    This is clearly about the principle, not the specific case of Maiden Erlegh School, which lets face it, is a decision unlikely to be reversed at this stage.

    • Andrew
      Posted September 17, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Legally, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the radial tiebreak which the OSA had recommended to the Secretary of State for Education, therefore what will taking it to court achieve?
      And now that the decision regarding any future changes to the catchment/tiebreaker is in the hands of ME (now that it is an academy), which is happy with the radial tiebreak and went on record to say it had reservations over the NANS tiebreak, the radial tiebreak may be with us for a good few years to come.

      • Andy
        Posted September 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

        Legally, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with the radial tiebreak which the OSA had recommended to the Secretary of State for Education, therefore what will taking it to court achieve?

        What is your point here? Legally there was nothing ‘wrong’ with the innovative solution provided by the local council that was overruled. If the local decision had been overturned on legal grounds that would be another matter. But this does not seem to be the case.

        • Andrew
          Posted September 18, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          I’m asking why would a court overturn the OSA’s decision. The OSA have no doubt followed all correct procedures in reaching their conclusion. A court certainly wouldn’t overturn on the basis it should be a local decision to be made without interference from outside.

          • Andy
            Posted September 18, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

            I don’t think anyone believes that this decision will really be overturned. However it is important that the powers that be are held to account to the extent that is possible. Also, it is important that a signal be sent to Maiden Earley Academy indicating the level of opposition they will face if they attempt to “Revise” the admissions arrangements in the future.

  2. Earley resident
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Mr Gove merely “signed off” a decision made by an umpire bought in at the request of local residents!!! What do we do in the future when we don’t agree with major decisions a council are making, do we just put up with it as it has been made locally? I am local too, I voted for you, why are you not representing me and scores of families like me!? Ironically, my local polling station is Maiden Erlegh school, how would you have expected us to vote if our children couldn’t even attend there!

    Reply: You elect Councillors to make these decisions for you, you can influence them or change them.

    • Elizabeth M.
      Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Dear John, an alarming number of the local Councillors LIVE in Lower Earley. Can they really give an unbiased opinion on this issue? None of them truly understood the upset and stress felt by the Wokingham residents living near to Maiden Erlegh school. We are hugely relieved by the Adjudicator’s verdict.

      • Don
        Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        I think that it is the ‘invisible elephant in the room’

  3. Selina
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

    Efforts should now be placed on parental engagement and support for Bulmershe. To continue with any challenge when the process was correct is a huge waste of tax payers money.
    Can we stop blamin the referee and move on!

    • Blah blah blah
      Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      I agree. If WBC had spent more time and effort on Bulmershe prior to trying to change catchments (as a previous school adjudicator said they should) they might have made their lives easier. Everyone knows that it’s not just about distances to school it’s about the disparity between schools too.
      As it is there seems to be only Cllr Rowland fighting for Bulmershe.
      Millions of pounds was spent on Waingels, £6 million is to be spent on St Crispins. £9 million to be spent on Wokingham town centre. All Bulmershe
      seems to get is empty promises.

  4. Blah blah blah
    Posted September 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    If you mean JMA as Readings new academy, its full. Why is it full? Part of the reason could be that Ryeish Green was closed.
    Comments like that make it sound like you want your cake and eat it, after all some Wokingham children go to Reading schools. Are you saying to your constituents that they shouldn’t consider Reading schools at all? Not even the grammar schools?
    If you want to preserve to attitude of local schools for local children, I’d like to think that this is something you have adopted in your own family life too.

  5. WBC resident
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    The original proposal from WBC was not legal, trying to exclude the Reading resident just by changing the DA, so when WBC realised this, they thought up some hair brained tie breaker which would do the exact same thing, but in a seemingly more legal way, by still including the Reading residents in the DA, but with them having absolutely no chance of getting into the school. It was only when it was pointed out that the people living in Maiden Erlegh Road wouldn’t get in that they had to amend their scheme to include the arbitrary 600m inner catchment area. Their thinking process is plain to see. I think the OSA made the correct decision.

    As far as voting for my local councillors, I certainly did not vote for this lot, and won’t in the future if they make such bad descisions. There should always be in place a way of getting an independant adjudicator in on these cases where constituents of a council can’t agree on the outcome.

    As far as Wokingham children for Wokingham school – thats just a load of non-sense, as I would like the right to send my kids to Reading boys, Kendrick, or even Tiffin if I thought that they would get in. The funding for my children to go to school follows the child, and does not just go to their local school. It also seems that WBC are absolutely fine with the Reading children going to the other WBC school, Bulmershe, so why is it not fine for them to attend Maiden Erlegh.

    As a WBC resident and one of your constituents, I think Mr Gove did the job he is being paid for and signing off on a recommendation made by a fair independant person, who was called in by a large number of your constituents who thought that their council was not making the right descision and was not listening to them, as they had their own agenda. There are Reading and Wokingham residents missing out, but that is indicative of a fair unbiased decision.

  6. ALD
    Posted September 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Hi John,
    I am a Park Ward resident of Reading Borough Council. I am very fortuante to be one of the people who have been lucky in this outcome. My child attends our local primary school and I have followed this story and supported my local friends to ensure that our children attend their local secondary school. However, the way in which this decision was made dismays me. I am appauled at this outcome. Reading Borough Council needs to provide a secondary school for its local children. Wokingham Borough Council needs to support its residents, as I would expect my council to support me. I agree with your statement and am pleased to hear that you feel that WBC should maximise the places for its own residents. I would also like to say that WBC did not, at any time exclude my children from its schools, we have an alternative. In hindsite, I am not sure I would have gone against the proposals of WBC but supported them. I hope I have made myself clear in this statement to you and would like you to note that whilst so many people are commenting on your blog we should all be aware that anyone can hide behind a name on the internet, make any comment they wish to, which is why blog entries from ‘Jo’ public need to be taken with a pinch of salt! Hope I’ve made my point!!

  7. Neil in Earley
    Posted September 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    John,
    You support the principle of localism and I can understand why. Surly in this case, no one is better placed to make an informed local decision than Maiden Erlegh school itself. They have clearly stated that they don’t want the new WBC tiebreaker. As an academy they are able to make their own decisions about their catchment – that is one of the benefits of an academy. It is WBC that have been meddling in what should have been a local school affair. In the end, the OSA decision has turned out to be a triumph for localism.

    • Andy
      Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      The school should only make that kind of decision after undertaking a consultation exercise, like the one that was carried out by WBC. So what they “Cleary State” is uninformed by such a consultation and therefore not valid.

      • IT
        Posted September 26, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

        Ummm…

        If we follow that logic then no one’s input to the consultation was valid, by not being informed by the consultation. Circular argument.

        The school expressed an opinion. So did you.

  8. LER Campaign Team
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Hi John,

    You are aware that the issue of localism has become very apparent in our local community. That being Earley and Lower Earley in the borough of Wokingham. As you know Wokingham Borough Councils determined schools admission arrangements, relating to Maiden Erlegh School, was overturned by Michael Gove following a recommendation by the schools adjudicator. What has outraged most members of our community is the way in which central government has intervened without any prior knowledge of the problems arising. For most, if our council had been found to be at fault, we would have accepted the decision. However, the schools adjudicator found Wokingham Borough Council to have been completely thorough throughout the consultation process. Wokingham Borough Council worked closely with their residents to provide a solution to a long overdue problem. They also worked hard at keeping all other stakeholders in the affected areas informed and involved in the process. The campaign team are overwhelmed at the response we have received from within our community. Our campaign has a very clear objective and that is to ensure that local decisions are made at local level. We fully support your actions to pursue this with Michael Gove.

    The Campaign Team, L E Residents

    • Jenny
      Posted September 20, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      ‘The campaign team, L E residents’

      I am from South East Lower Earley and you don’t represent me at all, in fact you are seeking to deny me, and others like me my child’s place at Maiden Erlegh school .

      Please rename yourselves ‘SW L E residents’ people who haven’t researched well what is happening might get duped.

      • Andrew
        Posted September 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        All this talk about localism is just hiding the real intention of the Lower Earley Residents group: to ensure that those living in south west Lower Earley get priority into Maiden Erlegh to the detriment of the rest of Earley.

      • LER Campaign Team
        Posted September 20, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        Hi Jenny,
        Thanks for your comments. Whilst we may not be representing you personally, we are representing the hundreds of members, from all over Lower Earley and Earley, that have joined us in this campaign on localism. The Campaign Team, LE Residents.

        • Jane
          Posted September 21, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          So, LER Campaign team, you’ve really got people from Earley joining your campaign??? Why on earth would they! Unless you’ve managed to dupe a few people who haven’t looked at the new radial map. Call me a cynic, but I suspect that you thought it might look better for your campaign to state that you represent a wider group than just those in the south west corner of lower earley.

          • Delusional
            Posted September 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            Jane,
            The ‘new’ radial map is NOT radial!!!
            You don’t use ARC’s in a radial map!! Doh!!
            So it might be wise for all concerned to look again at the ‘new’ radial map that has been officially issued, get out a compass and work out what a radial map really looks like!

        • Stuart
          Posted September 21, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          SW LE Residents ; You are not representing people from SE Lower Earley and definately not anyone from Earley.

          Reading comments on your latest petition, the arguments are far from consistant with what you are now saying. Does it bother you that people dont seem to understand this and what they are really objecting to.

        • Earley Parent
          Posted September 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          @LER Campaign Team
          I am an Earley resident and you DON’T represent me either, nor my neighbours and their neighbours. I would strongly suggest for you not make such FALSE claims on behalf of local residents.

          The proposal that has been (rightfully) rejected was ridiculous… with the sole purpose of serving a group of SW LE residents. Now thanks to you, a number of our freinds living in LE (who were happily in the ME catchment) find themselves either out or at high risk!

          So much for your drive for localism.

  9. Dave Lower Earley
    Posted September 20, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    I have no issue with “localism”, I think the role of the OSA is established.

    But the Adjudicator must use the Schools Admissions Code to make his recommendation. If only because the council used the code to determine the arrangements in the belief that if they followed the code they wouldn’t be overruled. Whether the council followed the code should have been ONLY criteria used by the Adjudicator in his recommendation. As far as I know the code does not mention the rights of people living close are superior to those who live further away or paying heed to “major life choices” but rather


    Distance between home and school and ease of access by public transport
    2.36 In establishing their oversubscription criteria, admission authorities should take account of the time it will take to travel to school, as well as, the safety of the route, the need to encourage cycling and walking and the availability of public transport (see paragraph 1.8) in establishing their oversubscription criteria.

    On this issue (which the complainants did not draw it to Adjudicator’s attention) the residents of Lower Earley should have been preferred.

    The Adjudicator also talks about “predictable and stable” admissions, which I believe are not part of the code.

    If the Adjudicator uses another code to the admissions authority it creates rather than solves problems,

  10. Phil
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    It is absolutely clear to see that the people complaining about this decision have no interest in the whole “interferance by the secretary of state” issue, merely that the decision went against them and will try anything to overturn it. They figure that the whole localism card is their best chance of success. I guarantee that if had been the other way round, there would be no ridiculously named “Lower Earley and Earley residents group” fighting the cause for what they feel is justice. I can also guarantee that there would be a similar group based in Earley probably fighting on the same issue but for the opposite result.

    If the council do try to waste our money on legally challenging this decision, they will be faced with more problems. By pleasing the South West Lower Earley group, they will be infuriating more Earley and Lower Earley residents than they realise. The whole situation has been a council disaster from start to finish with a serious lack of common sense applied, the result being this “neighbour vs neighbour” slanging match.

    The council should drop any threat of legal challenges, especially as the school didn’t even want the changes they proposed anyway.

    As a side-note to you John, you are backing a real vote loser if you intend to back a challenge to the decision.

    • Earley Parent
      Posted September 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      @ Phil,

      Totally agree with the points you make.

      Its shameful that the group of people orchestrating this nonsense are falsley claming to represent the opinions & interest of Earley residents – when they cleary don’t. In fact their initiatives have disadvantaged a number of LW residents.

  11. Stuart
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    They are perpetrating the myth that they can get their MP to alter a logical locally upheld catchment decision into one that puts them in a priority position even if they live furthest away.
    How long will it be until Woodley parents argue that they too should have access to an outstanding school? So what if they live miles away. It is afterall no further than a parent travelling from Lower Earley to ME. They are part of the shared ME/Bulmershe DA catchment too.
    Come on Woodley whats stopping you get campaigning!!

    • Andy
      Posted October 1, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      They should be in a priority because they have no close alternative, whereas some who live close to Maiden Erlegh do have a close alternative.

      The case boils down to is this:

      Resident 1 lives near to schools M and B. He is 1.5 miles from M and 1 mile from B

      Resident 2 also lives near to 2 schools, M ad B. He is 1.5 miles from M and 3 miles from B

      Under a fair system (not based on who can afford to move to the most advantageous area), resident 2 would get priority to M, since the alternative walk is much further for them if they do not get in than it is for resident 1 (Who in fact would have a shorter distance to travel)

      • davey
        Posted October 3, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Resident 1 made personal sacrifices and a life decisions to live 0.5 miles away from M, which happens to be 2 miles from B.
        Resident 2 decided to live 2 miles from M, 3 miles from B but 1 mile from RG. RG was allowed to close without a wimper because resident 2 believed the World would shift around to accommodate him and allow him priority access to M at the expense of Resident 1.

        RG was not as good as M, neither is B. Resident 2 wants to have his cake and eat it by moving consiously out of catchment and then pleading for the catchment to change. It’s like living next to an airport and complaining about the noise.

        Resident 2 made his bed, and it’s not about being able to afford it, there are plenty of houses close to M that are affordable.

      • Ummmm
        Posted October 5, 2011 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

        You keep banging that drum, that lonely ol’ drum

  12. Andy
    Posted October 1, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Any update from the home secretary?

    • Maggie
      Posted October 4, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes, she’s at the Tory Party conference and talking about the human rights bill and people avoiding repatriation by having a pet cat.

  13. Stuart
    Posted October 5, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Resident 2 travelling 3 miles would have his children safely transported to school in a free bus hence adhering to the committment to cut down on those nasty CO2 emmissions and congestion on our already overly congested roads. Furthermore, his childs real time journey would be shorter than Resident 1 who made the life choice to live close to a good school nevertheless is happy to continue walking to the campus they have been using since his children were age 3……

    • Dave, Lower Earley
      Posted October 9, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Stuart,

      I have a BIG idea, No buses. If we could figure away so that no child has a walk of over 2 miles, then no one needs to take a bus.

      All we need to do set a tie-breaker which takes account of the fact that some children will have to walk significantly further than others as a result of not getting into their nearest school.

      Any suggestions?

      • Confused
        Posted October 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        I’ve asked before and I know others have, but as yet I still don’t know the answer.
        Why, if parents are so passionate about their childrens’ education did they still choose to live in area under-served by secondary schools, in an area that wasn’t in ME catchment.
        As someone else put it, it’s a bit like buying a house near an airport then complaining about the noise.

        • Dave, Lower Earley
          Posted October 15, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

          Not everyone can afford to live on Maiden Erlegh Drive.

          Much of the area of Lower Earley that was outside the old Maiden Erlegh Designated area, was outside it because it was developed after the old Designated area was determined in 1982. So, being “recently” developed, many of the residents of this area are new to the area and are not likely to know as much about the area as a local. Some people will have bought houses before they had children and some people will have been affected by the changes in the designated area caused by the closure of the designated school.

          But the long and short of it is that you believe that people should be able to buy their way into the best state schools and the admissions arrangements should not be changed because people have spent more than they otherwise would have done on their houses, because of the tie-breaker in place at the time of purchase.

          All I can say is that this is a minority view and it is not reflected in the legislation.

          • bridget dunbabin
            Posted October 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

            Dave, I quite agree with you that parents shouldn’t be able to “buy” their way into the best state schools – and you are right to point out that not everyone can afford to live in Maiden Erlegh Drive. However, it is just not the case that less well-off parents were denied access to ME under the old admission arrangements.

            The old Maiden Erlegh catchment area DID contain affordable housing: large numbers of terraces, flats above shops and a small amount of social housing — all in East Reading. Had the adjudicator not intervened, a number of less well-off parents from this area would no longer have had access to an outstanding school in the 2012 academic year. Their places at ME would instead have gone to children — many living in far more comfortable homes — in far-flung areas of Lower Earley.

  14. Andrew
    Posted October 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, if it is your intention to meet with the Education Secretary to complain about the decision, please note that, in doing so, you will not be representing me nor a great number of your Earley constituents.

    • David, Earley
      Posted October 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

      Nor me. Please don’t complain to Mr Gove on my behalf.

  15. Stuart
    Posted October 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    TO Dave LOWER EARLEY, Yes radial distance, you know the same tiebreaker used in ALL wokingham schools. Where no blatent display of favouristism is adopted for an area where a fair few of the councillors live, sounds just about fair and equitable for all.

    • Dave, Lower Earley
      Posted October 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      And the Adjudicator knowing that Maiden Erlegh was an Academy and thus independent of Wokingham Borough Council, chose to go to radial because it was used by all COEDUCATIONAL Wokingham Schools. I don’t think it is a strong enough reason for ruling that “additional distance” was in breach of the School Admissions Code. It sounds irrelevant and subjective to me.

      I don’t think the Adjudicator is at liberty to decree the arrangements he prefers, I think he has to identify a breach of the code, but I don’t know for certain, I could be wrong.

  16. Ho Hum
    Posted October 16, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Replying to bridget dunbabin
    Posted October 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
    Who said “Had the adjudicator not intervened, a number of less well-off parents from this area would no longer have had access to an outstanding school in the 2012 academic year.”

    You obviously know the area better than me. My impression of the area that has benefited from going back to radial is not one of social deprivation. And some complaints were motivated not by the likelihood of getting a place, but by the change in priority of admission. That is why so much was made of the “golden line”. They wanted to be first in the queue, simple as that.

  17. DM
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    It is quite simple; the Adjudicator did not do what he was supposed to do.

    He believes that it is more difficult for a parent to assess the likelihood of a place with additional distance than with radial and yet the complainants themselves make the point that both systems produce a ranked list. Yes, I take the point that being say 130th on one list may not imply the same likelihood as 130th on the other list, but I don’t think you can say that one is better than the other in assessing likelihood with any confidence.

    The adjudicator also makes much of the school’s new responsibilities and its opinion. But being responsible for its own admission arrangements is not the same thing as being able to pick and choose its own admission arrangements. First it has to consult and then form an opinion based upon that consultation. The Adjudicator quotes the school as saying it has difficulty supporting the proposed arrangements, but the letter quoted predates the inner catchment and so does not relate to the determined arrangements. But finding the arrangements “difficult to support” goes a long way short of preferring radial distance to additional distance. If the School’s opinion is to be the deciding factor in the Adjudicator’s recommendation, then I think the School’s opinion ought to have been expressed more clearly and strongly than that in public at the time of the Adjudication and documented in the recommendation.

    As it is, I have the impression that the School’s opinion was implied from a nod and wink behind closed doors.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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