At today’s meeting of the County Council’s all-Conservative Cabinet, its members voted unanimously to reject the recommendations of an all-party working group which had been reviewing school admission criteria for primary age children.
The working group had been led by Cllr Clive Rickhards (Liberal Democrat, Studley), with membership from the three main political groups on the Council plus a senior member of the Warwickshire Governors Association. It had reviewed in detail a proposal for changing admission criteria in Warwick, which had been the subject of public consultation earlier in the year, and had concluded that the proposed “Super Priority Area” approach was the wrong way to address the challenge of giving families a greater chance of their primary-age children being able to attend the same school.
Instead, the working group had made the unanimous recommendation that Warwickshire should move to giving siblings greater priority within admissions criteria while retaining existing priority areas for individual schools, and had recommended that the new approach be piloted in the Warwick & Leamington area for an initial two years.
Cllr John Whitehouse (Liberal Democrat, Kenilworth Abbey), a member of the working group and Lib Dem spokesperson for Education & Learning, said after the Cabinet meeting:
“For over a year the Conservatives have been dangling the prospect of changed admissions criteria to parents badly affected by the current rules, and groups like Siblings at the Same School which have done heroic work in bringing the issues involved to the attention of elected members. Now, today it has come to the crunch, and despite a set of unanimous recommendations from an all-party working group they have decided to do nothing. Warwickshire parents will continue to face the possibility that their primary age children cannot attend the same school, with all the problems that can bring for family life and the well-documented adverse impacts on the children themselves.
“A decision by Labour members of the Children’s scrutiny committee, to abstain en-bloc on the working party recommendations, provided the Conservatives additional cover to justify their “no change” decision today. Both major parties have decided to sit on their hands and leave parents to cope with the consequences as best as they can. Both Conservatives and Labour have let down Warwickshire parents very badly.”