Middle School Admissions

FPC was shocked and surprised to hear of the lack of places at Etonbury School for leavers from Fairfield Park Lower School.

FPC sought a meeting in 2016 with the Central Bedfordshire School admissions team and Cllr Steve Dixon to discuss whether the infrastructure was in place for older age groups.  We were assured that the 300 places being added to Etonbuty from last September was sufficient to cope with the present increase and that a new middle school was being planned for future growth

We are seeking urgent meetings with CBC as to why the predictions were so wrong.

The head of Fairfield Park Lower School, Mrs Jenny Stone, has issued the following letter to parents today:

Middle School Admissions

As you know Admissions for school places is managed by the Local Authority and they have a statutory duty to commission places across the county.  We have been disappointed to hear from Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) that a significant proportion of our pupils at Fairfield Park have not been successful with their admission places to Middle school; this means that they have not been allocated their first preference place on this admissions round.  Historically our catchment school is Etonbury Academy but due to an overwhelming bulge for places this year, this has meant that the majority of pupils have been offered Henlow Academy either as their 2nd preference or the next available school with allocated school places.  We acknowledge the anxiety and upset that this will cause our families and pupils and our wider community when considering their future transition points.

As a school this is not something we had prepared for over this last academic year and we were unaware that the bulge in school places had not been secured in the local area at the middle school point. We have now been informed by the local Authority that this is a 2 year bulge and that a new school in the area will be commissioned shortly to fulfil this further growth in school places at the upper KS2 and secondary end.

As soon as we heard of this news and realised the impact on our school community we negotiated with the Local Authority that a meeting must be held, this took place in school on the 19 April [today]. Parents were able to speak with CBC about school places and also Henlow Academy staff.  Henlow Academy was Ofsted rated as a ‘Good’ school in March 2015 and the SIAs report in May 2012 rated behaviour as outstanding and achievement as high, see www.henlowacademy.co.uk.

As a school we will of course manage this scenario to the best of our ability and ensure that all factors are in place to support a meaningful transition to the school allocated.  We would like to reassure our parents that:

  • Our year 4 pupils have been immediately supported in their current classes by their year 4 teachers and staff, with opportunities to discuss and share any anxieties. Our pastoral team will support this dialogue for each pupil to have a bespoke program to support their needs as appropriate.
  • We have started a new relationship with Henlow Academy and will put in place transition activities and events for pupils and families. Year 4 staff will liaise with year 5 staff and ensure that information is shared on attainment and progress to ensure a smooth transition.
  • We will continue to liaise with Etonbury on transition activities for those pupils who will be attending.
  • This dialogue will also continue into the autumn term with both schools to ensure a smooth transition is in place and a professional dialogue has been had around standards.
  • Our passion and service to our pupils and community will continue and we will empower our pupils to be resilient and successful, continuing their next learning journey in a positive manner.

The governors and I are fully aware of the ramifications that this has for our whole school population and the wider implications for our school community thus we will aim to liaise with CBC over school places and lobby them to ensure that they give parents more informed choices and a voice in the future. In the meanwhile the governors and I will explore our strategy further for school places in the local area and will continue to put the pupils in our care at the heart of our community.