Councillor’s anger over Academy’s plan

BOSSES at Wigan’s first academy school are being accused of moving the boundaries in a bid to exclude pupils from a local council estate.

Labour councillors are angry that Fred Longworth governors want to re-draw the ‘measuring point’ from the front to the back of the campus as part of changes in the high school’s admission criteria for next year.

However, Cabinet member for Children and Young People Coun Susan Loudon claims this will deliberately block potential pupils from the Hag Fold and Shackerley local estates.

They are now demanding a rethink from school’s Board of Governors.

But the Headteacher of the school, Janet Garretts today dismissed the charge as “quite frankly complete nonsense.”

They want to move the boundary from the front of the school to the rear to reflect the fact that, for road safety reasons, that is likely to be redesignated as the main entrance in the near future.

Ms Garretts said the change was to define the exact position of the measuring point for the first time in a decade to make the admission criteria more transparent and better understood.

The existing wording - that the measurement should be made from the school’s “central point” - was, she said, open to ‘interpretation and challenge.’

Coun Loudon, who is an Atherton councillor, says that the current measuring point is a stream which passes through a culvert near the front entrance to the school in Print Shop Lane and that should be allowed to remain.

She said by moving it to the Squires Lane Gate at the rear it will hit the rights of potential Atherton pupils in future.

She said: “The governing body has changed the measuring point of how near a child lives to the school.

“This means if the school was over subscribed, as it is every year, children living in Atherton would only be considered for a place after children in Tyldesley living nearer to the rear of the school, rather than the front door of the school.

“As many residents will know the front door of the school is Atherton facing and the top of the drive of the school is within the old Atherton UDC boundary.

“Any parent in Atherton, wherever they live, can apply for any secondary school place, including Fred Longworth High School, but by changing the criteria it will make it very difficult for children from Atherton to gain a place there.

“I warned in September that as an Academy, Fred Longworth would be free to alter their admissions arrangements which was and is a concern.

“But these changes, as long as they are lawful, are now not within the control of the local authority therefore we are unable to stop the measurement being done from this point.”

But Ms Garrett, who has been Head of the school for the past three years, refuted Coun Loudon’s claims.

She pointed out that the high school had demonstrated its commitment to Atherton with its enlarged new list of ‘Association’ (feeder) primary schools which is also part of the new admission criteria.

Ms Garretts said: “The measuring point is currently defined in the wording of the criteria as being the school’s central point, which may have been perfectly legal, but wasn’t satisfactory because it is open to interpretation.

“The reason we have redefined it as the Squires Gate Lane entrance currently at the rear of the school is because we are looking at making that the main entrance because of the road safety hazard that delivery vans and lorries pose to our pupils as they go too and from the businesses which are also served by Print Shop Lane.

“It’s not particularly safe in my opinion and I haven’t really liked the situation from the moment I arrived.

“Redesignating our main entrance to the rear of the school would end that conflict.

“It makes a lot of sense and has nothing to do with influencing the criteria against children from Atherton, absolutely not.”

Ms Garrett added that she was saddened about the way the new admission criteria had been portrayed and offered to meet Coun Loudon.