New information and circumstances
As time went on, I was conscious to ensure that I and my fellow Cabinet colleagues had the most up-to-date and detailed information we could possibly have to make a decision. 2016-17 birth data (for pupils due to start in Sept-21) was immerging. Therefore, I delayed the publication of this report and recommendations until the last possible minute.
We were also able to get early indication of preferences/demand for September 2018 places at the three schools (the problem of early indicative data is it can change as my officers at the Council tell me!), but I wanted to have this information to work with too. Therefore, I delayed the publication of the report and recommendations until the last possible minute.
Things change. Data and intelligence, both soft and hard, emerge at times during a protracted exercise such as this. To plough on with what you had planned at the start, not listening to feedback from residents, not taking on board new data and not taking account of your inability to offer priority areas where changes are being made, would be foolish.
Therefore, as a result, based upon everything that I have learned over that last eight months and upon the future intelligence we have, I have come to the conclusion that making no change to the admission arrangements and catchment areas for 2019 (and onwards) for the West Leigh Infants, Chalkwell Hall and Leigh North Street catchments is the right thing to do.
This does not take away the fact, indeed I feel I must reiterate it, oversubscription will remain a challenge in the west of the town. Recent information indicates that the pressures on school places will continue to fluctuate over the coming years. This fluctuation follows the pattern of having no pattern! If it had, a decision would have been easy, obvious and understandable to those affected.
No change will in effect maintain the status quo of particular areas in the western boundaries of the West Leigh catchment, that for years of oversubscription, they will continue to be less likely to secure a school place at the school of their choice. I am very conscious of this impact, and apologise that on balance my decision will lead to this as an outcome. However, equally on the same balance, in years of less pressure they are likely to secure a place. For the other communities in Leigh, again on balance, the impact of this decision will allow them to maintain their existing links with their “community” school of choice. This decision has not been taken lightly, easily or quickly. It does however in my view take on board the intelligence we have to hand, and more importantly the views that have emerged as a result of the process from the communities.
No one said leadership would be easy. No-one said it would be quite this difficult either. I am very grateful to all those parents and professionals who took the time to offer their views and insight to help the Council come to its final position.