Deprived areas denied any opportunity
One of the biggest travesties in the whole admissions debate is Council's claims that its new admissions system gives opportunities to the poorest and most deprived areas of Brighton and Hove (the "Have nots" according to Pat Hawkes), to access the most popular schools. We have always known this to be bogus and we can now prove it.
The attached map is from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and shows the IMD (Indicator of Multiple Deprivation) Index for Education for the city. Superimposed onto that are the council's new catchments. I think any reader can see the point without detailed explanation. The Falmer superimposition is very slightly out but it doesn't detract from what is obvious. The worst performing areas in terms of educational deprivation have NO chance of accessing the better schools.
In Sept 2006 parents in the Falmer catchment chose and obtained places in many different schools other than Falmer, including Patcham, Varndean, Dorothy Stringer, Hove Park and Longhill. This will no longer be possible under the new system which discriminates against the Moulsecoomb and Bevendean housing estates; Moulescoomb ranks in the bottom 10% of Super Output Areas in the country on the Education Indicator of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), and Bevendean ranks in the bottom 20%.
The other area of Brighton and Hove which falls in the bottom 10% nationally on the education IMD is the Whitehawk estate. Under the current system, children from this estate attend a number of different schools across the City. The new system places all of these children into the catchment for Longhill school. Thus, as with Moulescoomb and Bevendean, these children from a deprived area of the City are denied access to high-performing schools at the same time as the school to which they are to be sent, Longhill school, is to be faced an intake that is yet more challenging than its present one. As with Falmer, the Longhill governors pleaded for these plans to be changed, but this plea was rejected. In fact Whitehawk ranks 176th from bottom out of over 32,000 SOA's in the country making it in the worst 0.5% in terms of educational deprivation in the country.
Surely we could do better than ringfencing our poorest areas in the city into 2 of the worst performing schools?
Is anybody in any doubt that what we opposing is a catastrophe?
It is very important to remember that BEFORE the Director of Children's Services (David Hawker) and his Asst (Gil Sweetenham) decided to cut-off further debate from the Working Group and proceed with recommending 3 awful proposals to CFS, Schools4communities was very much of the opinion that there were some advantages to be gained from a catchment system yet the catchments had to be :
- drawn to reflect community links with schools
- drawn to be socially inclusive and give the lower performing schools a comprehensive mix
- drawn so they "caught" the kids within them.
NONE of these were achieved by the review and NONE of these are achieved in the council's new system. We are left with no option now other than to oppose the new system in its entirety. Despite the worsening of the situation under the current system, we believe the proposed system to be infinitely worse. If we defeat this new system we intend to work to establish a new system that does reflect our desired goals.
We have received many emails from people with ideas about alternatives. All should be modelled by the Council, some were and were in our view dismissed completely without reason (such as twining Varndean with Falmer and Stringer with Patcham). That unfortunately was due to the interference of politics in the process. Hopefully any future review would not be tainted in the same way.