Further information regarding 2019-20 admissions changes

Background

In just a few short years of being open, the Archer Academy has become a sought-after school for families. Established to help meet need for those in N2, N3 and NW11, demand for places has fast outstripped supply, with the school full since day one and over-subscribed every year since.

Since the Trust consulted on new admissions arrangements for 2016, and introduced feeder school places, local opinion has been divided as parents sought to protect what they perceived to be a threat to their prospects of gaining a place at the school. As the school continues to be significantly over-subscribed, with around six applications for every place available, there are inevitably a large number of parents who are, and will be, disappointed by any decision the Trust makes to change, or not change, our admissions.

Opportunities for expansion are limited, but in order to address the continuing demand for places the school has increased the Published Admission Number (PAN) from 150 to 162 from 2018/19.

Whilst the Trust believes the use of feeder schools was an appropriate mechanism to enable us serve NW11 and N3, as well as providing operational benefits such as smoother transition from Year 6, particularly for vulnerable students, we recognised that the use of feeder schools was a source of discontent. Consequently, in Spring 2018, the Trust decided to consult on removing feeder schools from its admission criteria.  Legal requirements regarding consultation meant that this would have had to be consulted on in the autumn of 2018, before taking effect for admission in 2020.

Determination from the Schools Adjudicator, August 2018

At all stages, the Trust has used the latest available applications data, and has taken legal advice to ensure that admissions arrangements are fair and compliant with the Admissions Code. However, in August 2018, following complaints from three objectors made in May 2018, the Schools Adjudicator issued a determination in accordance with the relevant provisions of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998.

Only one minor objection (about the wording of the tie-breaker) was upheld and the adjudicator agreed that our aim to continue to serve each priority postcode (N2, N3 and NW11) was lawful and reasonable, but the adjudicator also determined that the use of feeder schools had proved ineffective in promoting the admission of children from N3 and NW11, and had produced unfair results.

Furthermore, the adjudicator used his legal powers to direct us to address this by changing our arrangements, without consultation, in time for admission in 2019.  The Trust received this determination on 16 August 2018, and the admissions window opened on 1 September 2018, leaving a very short period of time in which to make the necessary changes and communicate them to prospective parents and other stakeholders.

The revised admissions arrangements for 2019-2020 are available here and the changes and their rationale are explained below.  In due course, the Trust will decide whether to launch a consultation about arrangements for 2020 admission. 

Determining a mechanism for allocating places

Demand for places from the three priority postcodes has been consistently high, although there are some fluctuations from year to year.

Prior to the introduction of feeder school places, the number of children securing places to the school from outside N2 had diminished significantly, to the extent that only siblings and those falling within higher placed over-subscription criteria were being offered places. Analysis of admissions since shows that under the previous arrangements, no children at all from NW11 and N3 would have been offered a proximity-based place without feeder school places.

Following clear direction from the adjudicator, the Trust considers the most effective method to ensure places go fairly to all three postcodes is to have a quota of proximity-based places allocated to each priority postcode.

Determining a quota of places for each postcode 

To determine a fair and proportionate allocation of places between the three priority postcodes the Trust looked at a range of data and contextual factors, and heeded feedback from the adjudicator.

Ultimately it was decided that the fairest way of doing this was to divide the places in a way that reflected the pattern of parental preference from the three postcodes.  Whilst there are naturally fluctuations in these figures from year to year, over the past three years the total number of applications from N2 applicants was 716, with 566 applications from N3 and 348 applications from NW11. Thus, of the applications from these three postcodes, around 45% came from N2, just over a third from N3 and around a fifth from NW11.

As such the Trust has concluded that the following ranges of allocation for each postcode are appropriate, proportionate and fair:

N2 – 45% of proximity-based places

N3 – 35% of proximity-based places

NW11 – 20% of proximity-based places

Determining how to allocate places to applicants within each priority postcode

The Trust considered options available in allocating places to applicants from each postcode, principally (a) a random ballot and (b) proximity to the school.

(a) Random ballots

Having previously considered, and consulted on, the use of a random ballot for our admissions, the Trust remains of the view that this is not a popular option among parents and is also undesirable. Many feel that ballots introduce uncertainty and lead to people further away from the school securing places.

As we concluded in our report on the Admissions consultation in 2017:

“We recognise that many were concerned about the uncertainty that ballots introduce for parents in establishing whether they will be able to secure access to the school. Also we recognise that students longer distances from the school will be able to secure access. Given the majority view against the use of this mechanism, we have re-considered its implementation.”

(b) Proximity

The Trust also considered whether to use proximity to the school as the basis for allocating places to applicants in N3 and NW11.

Using proximity has the advantage of simplicity for parents and local stakeholders. It applies the same proximity-based criteria to all applicants – whether they live in N2, N3 or NW11 – and uses the same point for measurement (the front gate of the Lower School).

As such, the Trust has concluded that the use of proximity is the most appropriate, fair and simplest way to allocate places to applicants in our priority postcode areas.

Conclusion

The decision to change 2019 arrangements within 2 months of 16 August 2018 was made by the Schools Adjudicator, and is explained in a comprehensive report which can be downloaded here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-archer-academy–2

To minimise potential confusion and disruption for students applying for 2019, the Trust believe it is essential to change our 2019 arrangements before the admissions window opens on 1 September 2018. We have confirmed the timetable required by Barnet Council in order to implement for the opening.

In accordance with the determination from the adjudicator, the Trust proposes to implement an approach that removes feeders school (see Determination for Case Reference ADA3426, ADA3427 and ADA3428, Paragraphs 68) and would see a proportion of places to be allocated to applicants from NW11 and N3 living closest to the school. We believe this addresses the founding commitment, is fair and simple to understand, will provide a level of confidence for people living in the priority postcodes and meets the requirements as determined by the adjudicator.

We are also updating the arrangements to reflect the adjudicator’s points in Paragraphs 13 and 34.

Sanjay Maraj, Chair, the Archer Academy Trust

August 2018