School admissions

A WETHERBY councillor says he is “disappointed” over changes to Leeds schools admission system - which will allow parents to list five preferences instead of the current three.

Coun Alan Lamb (Cons, Wetherby) criticised the decision to increase the number of school preferences parents can make saying he fears it will dilute choice for parents getting their children into schools across the city.

The decision was taken by Leeds City Council’s executive board last week and Coun Lamb has now spoken out as he believes the changes will misrepresent the real choices to parents in Leeds.

In a statement after the executive board meeting, Coun Lamb, who is shadow spokesman for children’s services, said: “I’m disappointed that the board did not ask for the decision to be reconsidered.

“The changes will actually give parents less chance of securing their first choice of school and do absolutely nothing to address the real problems in the city, which is increasing the choice of good schools available to parents and their children.

“By encouraging people to make more selections, the council will be able to say that more parents have received at least one of their choices - but in reality most parents are only interested in sending their children to one or two schools, not three and certainly not five.”

The new arrangements will be introduced in September this year.

Figures released by Leeds City Council in March show that of 7,568 children across Leeds starting secondary school this September, 84 per cent were given first place offers - down two per cent from 2011.

A total of eight per cent were given second choice offers, with two per cent receiving their third choice preferences.

A total of 454 children did not get any of their choices at all.

Coun Judith Blake, executive councillor for children’s services, accused Coun Lamb of “scaremongering” over the issue.

She told the Wetherby News: “We are disappointed Coun Lamb thinks we are trying to dilute parental choice in this very difficult and challenging climate.

“We are trying to increase a number of children going to their first preference school.

“It’s going to be a challenge as Leeds is a popular city, the population is growing and so is the birth rate in the city.

“We want to make sure that all schools in Leeds are good schools, as well as more housing needs met for new families moving to the city.”

Figures released to the Wetherby News show that of 137 offers made to children to attend Wetherby High School this September by Leeds City Council, 103 of those offers were parents’ first choice.

A similar number at Boston Spa School show that of 147 offers made, 118 of them came from parents’ first choices.

Under North Yorkshire County Council, Tadcaster Grammar remains the most popular school in the Wetherby area, receiving 501 applications for just 262 places, compared with Sherburn High School, which received just 162 applications for 210 places.

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