Schools regulator orders Yavneh College to modify entry policy


Yavneh College’s controversial decision to reject priority entry for children from local Jewish primary schools in Hertfordshire has been upheld by the government’s admissions regulator.

But the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) has ordered the oversubscribed academy to change its entry rules for September 2017 after complaints from 33 people.

Yavneh’s abolition of feeder status for Hertsmere Jewish Primary School and Clore Shalom angered many parents, who argued that the changes in admissions policy would benefit children who lived close to the school in Borehamwood and Elstree at the expense of those who lived further afield in Hertfordshire.

According to the new policy, priority for entry would go to children living in the WD and AL postcodes of Hertfordshire. If there were more applicants than places, then the selection would be based on who lived closest to the school.

But parents complained to the OSA that the loss of feeder status was particularly unfair to families who had chosen Clore Shalom and HJPS on the expectation that their children would enjoy priority for Yavneh.

In a lengthy report, Deborah Pritchard, OSA chief executive, explained that the school’s decision to make the change was within the law.” I do feel for the situation of the children concerned,” she said. “However, the starting point for considering fairness in this context is that the legislation and the [Schools Admissions] Code provide that admission arrangements are only set for one year.”

But the use of the AL and WD postcodes as a catchment area was found to be unfair because it gave Hertfordshire parents living further away from the school unrealistic expectations, when it was “clear that a Jewish child living much more than five kilometres from the school, even if in the catchment area, is unlikely to gain a place at the school”.

Mrs Pritchard commented “the school consulted on a catchment area in the knowledge that very few children were likely to get a place at the school, even if they lived in the catchment area, unless they also lived close to the school. On balance, I believe that this aspect of the consultation was misleading.”

But she rejected other complaints at the way the governors had consulted parents on the policy.

She noted that “tensions about securing a place at the school have become more apparent in recent years”.

A Yavneh spokesman welcomed the ruling in “favour of Yavneh removing “feeder schools from its admissions arrangements. This vindicates our long-held view that these changes to the arrangements are both reasonable and fair."

But he said that the removal of the use of the AL and WD codes would now mean that “a family living in Hertfordshire but far away from the school – for example in Radlett or Bushey - is now less likely to get a place than a family living nearer to the school but in Edgware [which is in Barnet, not Hertfordshire].”

He added after a saga lasting many months, which had “forced the school to spend a very significant amount of money on legal fees… we are pleased to be able to finally put it behind us."

But Howard Cohen and Adam Myeroff, two of the objectors, called for the new policy to be ditched altogether for next year.

"We are delighted that the adjudicator has confirmed what we've been saying since the very start," they said. "The proposed entry criteria have been found to be unlawful and unfair, and what is worse, Yavneh was explicitly found to have misled parents in the course of the consultation,” they said.

“Rather than come up with a last-minute and hastily prepared bodge, we urge the school to revert to the old criteria for entry in September 2017 and engage in a full consultation this coming autumn for entry in September 2018 to ensure maximum fairness for all local Jewish children.”

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