Decision to allow a new Catholic school in Hampton was made according to Government guidance and cannot be overturned

03 February 2021

A decision by Peterborough City Council to approve a proposal for a Catholic primary school in Hampton Waters in adherence to Government guidance and the council's own policy cannot be overturned.

In January 2020 a Cabinet Member Decision Notice, to approve the proposal for the Roman Catholic Diocese of East Anglia (RCDEA) to open a new voluntary aided St John Henry Newman Catholic Primary School.

The following month, the matter was debated at length by the Children and Education Scrutiny Committee following a call-in for some three hours. The Committee voted with a two thirds majority (encompassing cross party, independent and co-opted members) against the call-in. Those three who voted against were there to put forward the suggestion that the proposal to open this faith school should be refused.

The decision has been taken in accordance with democratic processes, after due process and scrutiny and is now being implemented. It has already been called in and cannot be called in again. Since the decision was implemented, the council has entered into a pre-construction services agreement with the Government and spent in the region of £435,000 of the capital grant, on feasibility and pre-planning work and contractor payments. Any motion put forward proposing that the decision should be reversed would not be in order as this is an executive decision and not within the remit of full council.

There is currently no legislation requiring councils to adopt a petition scheme or to respond to petitions.

Whilst the Council has chosen to operate a petition scheme, irrespective of any outcome of a petition debate, in this instance the Cabinet Member cannot be required by full council to reverse her executive decision on this issue. Therefore, a petition whilst technically possible, will not be able to achieve what it sets out to do.

In addition, any ability, by any party, to judicially review the Cabinet Member Decision Notice is out of time.

Notes for parents

  • Work is progressing in liaison with the RC Diocese to ensure that the school can open in September 2022
  • The planning application for the school’s design has been submitted. If planning approval is received in April 2021, construction work is scheduled to start in June 2021. The council is fully committed to this construction project.
  • The establishment of this new school is a response to housing development. The level of growth in child numbers on the Hampton development has been exceptional, running ahead of past Peterborough forecasts.
  • The proposal from the RC Diocese to establish the school as an RC Aided Primary was subject to wide-ranging consultation and scrutiny by Council officers. As a maintained school, it is required to follow the national curriculum.
  • A further period of consultation is currently underway in respect of the school’s admission policy and oversubscription criteria for the 2022/23 academic year; its first year of opening.
  • If the RC Diocese wants to change their admissions policy and oversubscription criteria in subsequent years they are required by law to consult on these changes. The council would be statutory consultees to this process and would look to ensure that sufficient school places for the local community would continue to be provided.
  • The school’s Published Admission Number for entry into Reception in September 2022 is 30 but this could go up to 90 if required. The school will also admit children into Year 1 and Year 2 in its first year of opening. There will be 15 places available in each of those year groups.
  • In the event that more applications are received than the 30 Reception places available, the school’s published oversubscription criteria will be applied to determine which children are allocated a place. Priority will be given to Catholic children in accordance with the oversubscription criteria listed below except when considering applicants under the “Open place” category (1/5th of available places) which will be awarded without reference to faith. The oversubscription criteria are set out in the attached appendix. Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan that names the school must be admitted. Non-Catholic children in care and children previously in care will gain a place under the “open place” category if they are not successful under the “faith” category. Siblings are given preference in each category to ensure that families are able to attend the same school.
  • The RC Diocese has confirmed in writing that ‘if the Local Authority advise us that there is a need to open additional classes ahead of the currently agreed class structure then we are happy to do so. Obviously, we would not wish to deplete pupil numbers in existing schools, so we will very much be guided by the Local Authority on this.’ Consequently, the council are confident that sufficient local school places for the Hampton community will be provided.
  • Pupil forecasting, by its very nature, cannot deal in guarantees. However, the evidence available indicates that there will, in all likelihood, be more places available to serve the local community in the Hamptons than the proposed over-subscription criteria for the new school would suggest. This has been the case in 2020 when there were (as of 31.10.20) 18 vacant Reception places at Hampton Lakes and 25 vacant Reception places at Hampton Vale.
  • Our current demographic forecasts for Hampton in 2022 show a total number of 324 Reception children for the 390 places which could be made available in Hampton schools.
  • No child is guaranteed a place at any school in the city until the full admissions process has been completed and offers are published on National Offer Day in April.
  • Our RC schools in Peterborough are some of the strongest performing in the City. St John Fisher has on the highest level of pupil progress in the Eastern Region and Sacred Heart was named in the top 100 performing schools by the Times in 2020.

Jonathan Lewis – Service Director (Education) – 3 February 2021