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Unanimous Approval For Catchment Options Recommendation

Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny committee have unanimously recommended that the council carries out a public consultation on the option of removing school catchment areas for Community and Voluntary Controlled Primary, Infant, First, Junior and Middle Schools.

Catchment areas are only applied if a school is oversubscribed and are not a legal requirement. Other local authorities who do not have catchment areas as part of their admission arrangements offer places  based on distance from the school when there are more applicants than places available. 

The recommendation to consult comes following Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee approval, in November 2013, for an Options Study to be undertaken on school catchment areas for Poole Community and Voluntary Controlled Primary phase Schools.

The Options Study was requested on the basis that some catchment areas are not working and others may not be sustainable in the long term, for example:
o There are schools that are not in their own catchment areas;
o Some schools have  more children in catchment than can be accommodated at the school;
o A new junior school is opening in September 2015 that will not have a catchment area; 
o An increasing number of schools are becoming academies, some of which have indicated that they are considering removing catchment areas. 

The Options Study considered three options: no change to the current arrangements; establishing new catchment areas and removing catchment areas.   The option for new catchments has not been recommended for public consultation as it did not solve all the issues the council needs to address.

Councillor Sandra Moore, Chair of Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Borough of Poole, said: “Members of Overview and Scrutiny discussed the Options Study in detail before unanimously approving the recommendation to go out to consultation with residents about the future of catchment areas in Poole.  We understand this is a key issue for people and it is important we consider our residents’ views before making any decisions going forward.”

The final decision to progress to consultation will be taken by Councillor Janet Walton, Portfolio Holder for Children, Young People and Families on Monday 24 March. If approved, the consultation would run from the end of April to June this year and would ask for residents’ views on either having no catchment areas or keeping catchment areas the same.  The earliest a change could be made is September 2016.