Brooke Weston promises admissions review as parents call for Corby's most sought-after school to prioritise local children
It's written into admission criteria that only half of the children who get places each year come from Corby
A review of admissions policies at a leading Corby school will take place later this year after attracting criticism amid rising population figures and pressure on secondary places in the town.
Ofsted outstanding-rated Brooke Weston Academy had the second highest progress 8 score in the north of the county in 2019 and, according to local education authority figures, there were 902 first, second and third place applications received by the closing date for its 186 places. For just over 400 of them, Brooke Weston was first choice.
Figures seen by the Northants Telegraph show that 16 pupils who will start in year seven at the school in September will be from Rothwell Junior School and 17 will be from Desborough primaries. Other children are being admitted from as far away as Croyland in Wellingborough, Mawsley and Loddington, while only 31 will come from primary schools the Oakley Vale estate where Brooke Weston is based.
Children applying for Brooke Weston must sit a test and children are taken from a broad range of abilities depending on their results.
Although Brooke Weston's admissions policy states that only half of its entrants have to be from Corby and it has always taken pupils from a wide geographical area, there is growing disquiet among people from Corby over the squeeze on secondary places locally which sees some children from the town being bussed to Uppingham and Oundle to attend school, while the outstanding school on their doorstep is taking children from Kettering.
As the town has grown, secondary places have not kept up with the increasing population and a new school near Weldon that has been delayed several times is not expected to open for at least another year or more.
Brooke Weston say that the admissions code prevents it from favouring children who attend one of their trust primaries, and that 41 children who live on the Oakley Vale estate, regardless of which primary they attend, were given places in year seven this year.
One parent whose child did not get a place at the school contacted our reporters. He said that the admissions policy discriminates against youngsters who live very close to the school and those who attend a primary school run by the Brooke Weston Trust.
He said: "Less than one in six of Oakley Vale Primary Academy (OVPA) pupils were allocated a place at Brooke Weston Academy despite this being their nearest catchment school and a trust primary. Only six students from OVPA obtained a place outside of the sibling rule.
"If you live, as we do, within close proximity of OVPA and are unable to access your closest school, Brooke Weston, you are then excluded from being able to access Corby Technical School or Corby Kingswood Academy based on their allocation of places based on distance to school. A number of students living on the Oakley Vale estate will therefore have no catchment school. This is discriminatory.
"Thirty three students from Rothwell or Desborough have been allocated a place at BWA despite them being within catchment of Montsaye Academy and a substantial distance from BWA. Twenty three of these students have no sibling link."
He says that only 23 students from Brooke Weston primary schools in Corby have been allocated a place.
He added: "When applying for a place at a BWT school, and in particular after being allocated a place at OVPA, it should be made clear to parents that they have a very limited chance (6 in 100) of being successful in their application to BWA.
"Why are students being bussed into Corby from as far afield as Mawsley when residents of Mawsley have Montsaye, Southfield School, Bishop Stopford, Latimer Arts, Kettering Science Academy and Kettering Buccleuch Academy to select from?"
"When I drive to work in the morning I drive past Montsaye where between 20 and 40 students are awaiting a bus to Brooke Weston.
"Kettering has two academies, an outstanding faith school, a highly regarded all-girls school and a good arts college. Surely Corby's need of high quality school places is greater?
"Brooke Weston Academy’s admission’s process is not fit for purpose and discriminates against a small number of students that live in very close proximity to the school."
He also raised concern over why Brooke Weston do not have to tell parents where their child is on the waiting list, when other schools in the area are compelled to.
Another parent has started a social media campaign over the effect on climate change of the number of children attending Brooke Weston from other areas. The Twitter account accuses the school of 'manufacturing' its cohort and says that Kingswood and Lodge Park, which have local catchments, are forced to pick up the pieces.
Former Labour prospective parliamentary candidate Beth Miller attended Brooke Weston and has called for a review of the admissions process.
She said: "The current system doesn't seem entirely fair. The sensible route seems the be an independently-led consultation in which the local community - residents in Oakley Vale and the wider borough of Corby - can feed in their views with the school implementing the recommendations.
"I hope this is something the school will take forward."
Andrew Campbell, Chief Executive of Brooke Weston Trust, said: “Demand for school places in Corby has risen dramatically in recent years, and working with the council we have expanded our intake or built additional capacity across our schools, including doubling the size of Corby Technical School.
“However, we recognise that demand for more places in Corby is still high and will be working with education leaders across the county and the wider community to review Brooke Weston Academy’s policy later this year and wherever possible reduce the use of school transport.
“Like all schools in the county, ours are subject to the annual admissions consultation scheme coordinated by North Northamptonshire Council. While academies can set their own oversubscription criteria, they must do so in accordance with the Schools Admissions Code. The code prevents trusts favouring children from their own primary schools over others. School places are then allocated by the council to ensure the process is fairly and independently managed.
“Brooke Weston Academy received almost 1,000 applications for its 186 places this year. Historically the school has served a large catchment area, including Corby, Kettering, and surrounding villages. Almost half of the places available for Corby students were allocated to people living in the Oakley Vale postcode area this year.
“We believe in valuing every student equally and work to ensure that no-one is left behind. We ask students applying to all our Northamptonshire secondary schools to complete a non-verbal reasoning assessment so that each school can achieve a comprehensive mix of abilities that reflects the national picture.”