Over a thousand people voted for Option B in the consultation, to introduce a feeder school system to tackle the over-subscription problems that have caused controversy in Cardiff in recent years. Over 1,200 people took part in this consultation as opposed to just 50 last year.
Despite the overwhelming majority of people voting for option B, in a report (1) released on Saturday 10th March, Nick Batchelar (the Director of Education and Lifelong Learning at Cardiff Council), advised that the majority be overruled in favour of just 8% of voters who chose his preferred Option A – to implement minimal changes to the current system.
It is noted that 13% did not respond and the report seems to assume this percentage would also have opted for A. One parent from the Roath community commented: “This is flawed logic. What’s the point of a consulting if you are just going to substitute your own views for others who did not respond?”
The Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee meet on Tuesday 13th March to discuss the report, leaving just one working day for people to contact their elected councillors in response to this undemocratic recommendation.
People are angry that the short timeframe will force the issue through and make a mockery of the consultation process that they were invited to take part in. They say Mr. Batchelar has failed to address the critical situation in community schools, leaving children anxious and uncertain about their future.
Over-subscription affects several secondary schools throughout the city including Cardiff High School. To exacerbate the existing problems for primary pupils in this catchment area, an extra 30 ‘bulge year’ pupils will be applying for places this autumn – yet the report fails to outline any contingency plan for them.
Furthermore, the comments made by Councillor Sarah Merry in a press release (2) about the admissions process issued on 9th March, have deeply upset the socially diverse community of Cardiff. She argued that the feeder school system might disadvantage vulnerable families or those who move to the area for work.
But as these children are already protected in the existing and proposed criteria under ‘social reasons’, this is moot point. Many believe that the report unfairly discriminates against families, who have contributed to their local schools and culturally rich communities for many years.
Given the unreasonable timescale to respond, families will be attending the Scrutiny meeting at County Hall on Tuesday (13th March) from 4pm to appeal directly to the Committee.