PUPILS expecting to move on up to secondary school have been dealt a blow this week after learning their preferred choice is oversubscribed.
Wokingham.Today has learnt that in some cases, Year 6 pupils will be starting lessons this September at their fourth choice school.
To help meet demand, one school has taken an increased cohort.
And the leader of Wokingham’s Liberal Democrats says that there has been a lack of warning from the council, meaning that the first he heard about it was when distraught parents contacted him.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris (Twyford ward) said: “It came to me as an utter surprise.
“We need more communication from schools and councils, I know that academy schools have their own entrance criteria, but for distraught parents, it’s a bolt out of the blue.
“Children’s Services at Wokingham Borough Council should have said, ‘Yes, we have a problem’ – they must have known about it in advance, and ward councillors should have been made aware. It’s appalling they weren’t.”
He said that his ward’s main secondary school, The Piggott, could accept 203 pupils, but turned down 159. Another school, The Bulmershe, had had to turn away 96 pupils.
Others had expanded their intake, including The Emmbrook, which took on an additional 75 pupils, but still had to place eight students on a waiting list. Waingels College also expanded its intake, welcoming an additional 30 pupils this year. Yet it still had to put 16 students on a waiting list.
Speaking of The Piggott, Cllr Ferris said: “It’s a huge number (to turn away) – a third of people.
“There is a problem (with school places) across the borough. It seems to be a pretty big thing this year, it’s on a massive scale.”
He called for an immediate review of places for borough pupils.
“We were told there was enough capacity. It’s just not good enough – it’s been kept secret.”
Bohunt School Wokingham had to turn down 147 pupils, Maiden Erlegh school turned down 301 students, Oakbank School turned down 16, St Crispins turned down 80 and The Holt turned down 150 pupils.
The Forest School accepted 59 pupils, after they were rejected from their first choice – but it did not need to expand its intake to do so.
Across the borough, 973 pupils were put on school waiting lists, after not making it into their chosen school.
The Emmbrook School said that it has been pleased to work in partnership with the Local Authority to accommodate its request to take a number of additional students this September.
It held an online event last night to welcome new families and parents are encouraged to contact the team if they have any questions about transition to secondary school.
Nick McSweeney, The Emmbrook’s headteacher, said: “I am proud of how this community has pulled together to support our students through the challenges of the last year.
“Our strong focus on pastoral support and academic excellence means that Emmbrook students are well prepared to return to face-to-face lessons from Monday.
“Our priority is to ensure the best possible transition to Year 7 and I am excited that we will be working in partnership with Wellington College to provide an amazing summer school experience for them.
“We are looking forward to welcoming all of our new students into The Emmbrook Family.”
Wokingham Borough Council said that it contacts parents first on National Offer Day, alerting executive members to the admission offer figures.
Its admission and appeals process is published on its website.
Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services, said: “More than 85% of the 2,320 applicants we had for secondary school places were given a place at one of their top two preferred schools.
“An increased birth rate for this school year and an increased demand for places at Wokingham borough’s schools saw us handle 7.5% more applications than for 2019-20, making it more challenging to get pupils into their preferred schools.
“To help deal with this increased demand a large number of secondary schools have agreed to take on additional pupils where necessary to meet the demand for places within our borough.
“However, as parents choose to accept or decline their offers there may be some churn in respect of the admissions offers and in such instances wait lists will be used to fill available spaces.”
She added: “If you haven’t been offered the school you wanted, you can appeal the decision. Appeals have to be submitted by 30 March 2021 and can be done on the council’s website. We would encourage parents to accept the place offered as this does not prejudice their right of appeal or movement on waiting lists.”