Further information regarding previous admissions changes
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 increased the Published Admission Number (PAN) from 150 to 162 in 2018.
Whilst the Trust believes the use of feeder schools was an appropriate mechanism to enable us to 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 changes to admissions arrangements meant consulting on proposed arrangements in the autumn of 2018, before taking effect for admission in September 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. However 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.
Consequently, the adjudicator used his legal powers to direct us to address this by changing our arrangements, without consultation, in time to apply to admissions in September 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.
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 subsequent admissions data shows that under the previous arrangements, no children at all from NW11 and N3 would have been offered a proximity-based place.
Following clear direction from the adjudicator, the Trust considered the most effective method to ensure places go fairly to all three postcodes was 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, the places were allocated based on the average numbers of applicants from each of the priority postcodes (N2, N3 and NW11) from the previous three years.
As such the Trust has concluded that the following ranges of allocation for each postcode were 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.”
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 was the most appropriate, fair and simplest way to allocate places to applicants in our priority postcode areas.
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 believed it was essential to change the 2019 arrangements before the admissions window opened on 1 September 2018. We confirmed the timetable required by Barnet Council in order to implement it before admissions opened.
In accordance with the determination from the adjudicator, the Trust proposed to implement an approach that removed feeder schools (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 have also updated the arrangements to reflect the adjudicator’s points in Paragraphs 13 and 34.
Sanjay Maraj, Chair, the Archer Academy Trust