Good to talk over school catchments

Fair Isle Primary School, Kirkcaldy
Fair Isle Primary School, Kirkcaldy

PARENTS in Fife will be consulted this autumn on a new admissions policy which will be used to determine where their children will go to school.

Fife Council wants the new policy in place for the 2013/14 enrolment process, starting in January next year.

The policy will aim to provide clarity over catchment areas, with all addresses linked to one denominational and one non-denominational primary and secondary school.

And it will set out arrangements for enrolment, placing requests, early entry for pupils, oversubscription of schools and transport to and from school.

The choice of school is a crucial decision for many parents and while the majority of children will attend a school in their catchment area, disputes can arise when families live close to catchment boundaries, rapid population growth makes a school oversubscribed or when placing requests are declined.

The new Schools Admissions Policy – replacing the existing guidance which no longer complies with legislation passed by the Scottish Government – will aim to set out clear criteria to settle any disputes.

Councillor Kay Morrison, speaking at last week’s executive committee meeting, said: “Anyone who has sat on an education appeals panel will know how problematic is can be. It seems obvious some sort of change has to take place.

“If it’s better and brings more clarity and is easier to implement then that will be wonderful.”

However, members of the executive committee were unclear what changes were being proposed to the existing guidance and wanted the consultation process to be properly scrutinised to ensure it was fully understood before it was put out to the public.

Depute administration leader, Councillor David Ross, said: “It would be useful for parents if we could highlight what we are changing. They may be administrative changes, but we still need to highlight what they are.”

SNP group leader, Councillor Peter Grant, also stressed the importance of getting the policy right – from the consultation process through to approval by councillors.

He said: “If it’s not done properly it leaves us open to challenge if someone is not happy.”

Consultation is likely to take place between August and October. Four public meetings – one in Kirkcaldy – will be held and there will be opportunity to participate online.