THE CHAIRMAN of a Wigan high school’s under-fire governors has hit back in the row over admissions.
Cabinet member for children and young people Coun Susan Loudon accused the board of Fred Longworth High School - Wigan’s first Government-style Academy - of attempting to exclude children from Atherton council housing estates.
She said that moving the ‘measuring point’ for qualifying distance from the front to the back of the campus and thus further away from Atherton would disadvantage children from the town.
The ruling executive agreed to write a letter of protest urging the governors to ‘think again.’
But Honorary Alderman Brian Wilson, the council’s former chairman of education and now chair of the governors, pointed out that there had been a number of problems with the admissions criteria in recent years.
He said that had meant that children from Mosley Common and Tyldesley, for who Fred Longsworth was geographically their nearest school, were unable to get a place.
The council at that time had given “considerable thought” to the matter and created a fairer system which for many years seemed to be accepted by all concerned.
But in planning for the Building for the Future” (BSF) initiative later scrapped by the Government, the council decided to include postcodes and feeder schools in the criteria, making further changes as a result of the decision to close Atherton’s Hesketh Fletcher school.
He said these would change yet again when BSF was cancelled by Education Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Wilson said that the adoption of three different sets of criteria in the last three years was “confusing and unsettling parents.”
And moreover, children from Parklee Primary School in Atherton were disadvantaged last year when their school was not included in the council’s list of Fred Longworth feeder schools.
Mr Wilson said: “The latest council criteria would have taken us back 15 years and again mean that children from Mosley Common and Tyldesley would miss out.
“The governors’ proposals signal a return to 2010 and would therefore restore the fairer situation that pertained for many years.
“Fred Longworth High School has always been primarily a school for Tyldesley children, being created, after all, from the amalgamation of Tyldesley Girls and Tyldesley Boys Schools.
“In drawing up the revised proposals the school was advised to be more specific in relation to the point from which measurements of distance were taken.
“The Squires Lane entrance appeared to be the most appropriate one given that it is used by the majority of students and is a safer and more secure entrance for students than Printshop Lane.”
He insisted that it “has never been the case” that governors wished to disadvantage students from Atherton.
He said they now believe that their new admission criteria proposals were actually “fairer” to children from Atherton, especially as some of their named ‘associated’ primary schools are in Atherton itself.