Top marks for Polesden Lacey School

In a word, 'Outstanding'

February 14, 2010: "Outstanding." That's the Ofsted inspector's verdict on Bookham's Polesden Lacey School in Oakdene Close: "Its reputation is justifiably high," said Ofsted's Richard Blackmore, "both within the local community and further afield, because of its inspirational eco-friendly culture and inclusive and nurturing environment. Children receive a warm welcome to the Reception class and quickly become happy and eager to learn."

Blackmore awarded the school top marks both in overall effectiveness – how good the school is – and in its capacity for sustained improvement after his visit at the end of January. The top scores also extended to the pupils' achievement, safety, behaviour, healthy lifestyles and contribution to the school and wider community. Their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development was also top notch. No wonder that one parent told the inspector the school was "a truly special small school."

In a covering letter to his report earlier this month, Blackmore said: "You go to an outstanding school and it has a many strengths. You make outstanding progress. By the time you leave school, you reach standards that are high. You are extremely well cared for and given very good quality help to make sure you learn quickly.

"You have an excellent understanding of how to keep safe and be healthy. Children in Reception thoroughly enjoy school, work extremely hard and cooperate very well. You have excellent relationships with each other and your teachers and teaching assistants.

"Your school keeps you very safe. You have an excellent understanding of how other people in the world live. You love your clubs and trips and visits."

Chair of Governers Sean Whetstone told the Bugle: "We are the first community and non-faith school in Surrey to receive the Ofsted Overall Outstanding grade since the new Ofsted Framework was introduced on 1st September last year. We are only the second school in the Surrey to get the Outstanding grade since the new much tougher Ofsted framework was introduced last year. The first school was Church of England school Ewhurst."

Nationally, he said, less than 15 per cent of the top schools achieve the Ofsted Outstanding grade but that is expected to reduce under the new framework.

Above right: Polesden Lacey School head teacher Rosie Keedy with some of her star charges.

Battle goes on for Bookham's children

Howard Admissions latest

Don't Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA), the committee formed to press for Bookham children to have greater rights of admission to the Howard of Effingham school, issued its latest newsletter on December 16, 2009. The Bugle has reordered some of the material to make it clearer.

Revised admissions criteria
In 2009, two children living within the Howard's catchment area did not gain a place at the school. But 17 out-of-catchment siblings did. In 2008 both of these figures were higher, meaning that children living closer to the school lost places to children for whom the Howard is not their nearest school.

In future these figures could be even higher, with numbers losing places being closer to 30 as in 2007. The east of the catchment is most affected.

Please follow this link to the 2011 Consultation - How to respond—it will only take two minutes to fill in.

Surrey County Council proposes no changes to the existing criteria except that both older and younger siblings would have priority—irrespective of how far they live from the school. This proposed change would apply to the whole of Surrey. The nearest alternative school (NAS) criterion would remain as a tie break for The Howard within the catchment; this favours children west of the school ahead of those closer to the school, in conjunction with attendance at a feeder school.

DDOCA strongly believe that it is in the best interests of ALL those living in the catchment to DISAGREE with the proposed criteria and instead propose a 'tiered sibling priority' so places would be allocated, after special circumstances to:-
1. Siblings living in the catchment
2. Children living in the catchment who are in designated partner / feeder schools
3. Other children living in the catchment (non partner and private education)
4. Siblings outside the catchment
5. Other children outside the catchment

DDOCA believe that ALL children in the catchment could obtain a place by including a standard criterion used by the majority of neighbouring counties. Once embedded, the criterion of tiered sibling priority gives priority for all children living in the catchment over siblings living outside. This would not be retrospective and is why it needs implementation in 2011—before it is too late.

Although the security provided by partner schools should be retained, our wish is that if a child is “In the catchment they are In the Howard”, regardless of where they live in the catchment and in state or private education.

Increased Pressure On Places
[] SCC’s proposed change to include older as well as younger siblings could increase the number of “out of catchment” siblings in the Howard unless they have the tiered priority we are proposing.

[] 2010 admissions – details are awaited but this is likely to be a lower birth year and most, if not all, in the catchment should get a place which is excellent. However if there is spare capacity places will be awarded to non siblings living outside the catchment thus giving their siblings priority in the future.

[] SCC admits there will be severe pressure on places at all secondary schools in the area over the next few years as a result of high birth years and people joining from the private sector. We believe by including this no later than 2011 it would become embedded in time to meet the high demand for secondary school places within the catchment in 3 years time.

[] Some people play the system by moving into the catchment for the admission of one child preventing children who genuinely live in the catchment gaining a place – the tiered sibling priority would discourage this practice.

[] It is not in any community’s interest for an event, such as a non partner school child in Effingham not getting a place, to trigger the Schools Adjudicator being called in.

[] Seeking a win:win

We are aware of how emotive NAS is amongst the different communities. We firmly believe that, with the retention of NAS, the tiered sibling priority provides even more protection for the access of all Horsley children (especially those not in a partner school) to the Howard while improving the position for the rest of those in the catchment.

This is why ALL should support this proposal.

We are pleased to say we have a joint meeting with SCC on the 21 December when hopefully we can demonstrate the benefits to all.

New DDOCA Committee members
We are pleased to announce that the following have joined the Committee:-
Nick Shepherd (Eastwick)
Diana Steadman (Polesden Lacey)

If anyone else has an interest in the future of the Howard wants to know how you can help, please let one of us know or email

Lastly, we wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year

DDOCA Committee.

Surrey plan signals no new places

Foundation status 'will not change admissions policy'

September 29, 2009: Surrey County Council has more bad news in store for Bookham's schoolchildren. Its organisation plan 2010 (click here to download a 172kb PDF) predicts an increase in the shortage of places at the Howard of Effingham School. It predicts that a projected increase in primary pupils numbers in Fetcham and Bookham area "will apply pressure on secondary places in Effingham."

According to the Don't Drive Our Children Away campaign group formed to allow Bookham children easier admission to the Howard, there are too few places available at the school. The local population is increasing and in recession more parents are transferring to good state schools from the private sector.

Unless the number of places rises or the catchment rules are changed:
[] Even though children in Bookham and Fetcham could walk or cycle to school, they will continue to have a lower priority than those in the west of the catchment who tend to come by car.

[] More children will make longer car or coach journeys, adding to the carbon footprint of those already being driven to the school from the west of the catchment. "If the Leatherhead schools are full," says DDOCA, "then the carbon footprint would increase further as would the council’s transport costs. Where would the children go? Certainly they would need to travel further than those in the Guildford end of the catchment would have to travel to attend their next nearest school."

DDOCA says some parents have commented that they feel children from Bookham and Fetcham are not wanted by the school, which they believe is responsible for criteria that favour those to the west of the catchment. "We wish to emphasise that the admissions criteria is set by SCC and not by the school."

Meanwhile, the Howard has just launched a consultation about coming a Trust (Foundation) School in 2010. This would entitle the school to set its own admission arrangements.

However the Howard's Governing Body says it "has no desire to depart from the existing admissions process which is administered by Surrey County Council. It has no plans to select students or change admissions policy in any way unless Surrey County Council advises the school otherwise.”

More information from this part of the Howard's website.

What do you think? Tell the editor.

Make or break SCC meetings about to decide future Howard admissions

February 13, 2009: Two Surrey County Council (SCC) meetings next month will decide the educational fate of children in Bookham. The meetings may deny them places at the Howard of Effingham comprehensive school in 2010 – though they may also determine admissions policy after that date.

According to Don’t Drive our Children Away (DDOCA), the local campaign to assure Bookham children of Howard places, the Howard is the only secondary school in Surrey which does not have enough spaces for those children for whom it is their nearest secondary school.

In a new statement issued ahead of the SCC meeting, DDOCA says planned local house building, affects of the recession on private education, high birth years and other factors, are likely to continue to put pressure on space at the school in the future. "Therefore any tie break criteria which affect the Bookhams and surrounding areas are increasingly important until such time as the school has sufficient capacity," says DDOCA.

"The standard Surrey tie break, used for the majority of schools in the county, is 'straight line distance from the school.' Unfortunately SCC is applying a little-used tie break of distance from the nearest alternative school (NAS) – regardless of whether that school has spaces."

SCC agrees that the NAS criterion, even with feeder schools, favours those to the west of the school, mainly the communities of East and West Horsley. The SCC's reasons for choosing NAS aren't clear. DDOCA believes the SCC has been influenced by the fact that the Horsleys are rural whilst Bookham is considered urban. The SCC is concerned that children from the rural communities would not be able to get into the Howard and that those in West Horsley may not get into a school in Guildford or Sheerwater.

DDOCA chairman David Cox says it has asked SCC to test this concern by modelling 'straight line distance' against NAS. The campaign believes that with catchment and feeder schools on straight line distance, state school children in West Horsley and its Raleigh School "would have no problems [because] the criteria that caused the hooha originally was distance by road. Straight line brings the Horsleys much closer."

But the SCC refused to meet this modelling challenge – even when DDOCA offered to pay towards the cost, says Cox.

2009 Admissions – notification of places due in early March

Although DDOCA has continued to oppose this criterion "with limited success to date," says DDOCA, "some important safeguards were achieved for 2009." These include the retention of feeder schools (which at least spread the available spaces more fairly across the catchment), a defined catchment area, "and pressure on SCC to over offer."

Over-offering means the SCC offers more places at the Howard than are available, as it did in the 2008 academic year. The DDOCA says the SCC's calculation is that, if it does this, only a few children will be denied Howard places, and those will probably not be in feeder schools.

Cox is pleased that over-offering has meant that more Bookham children have won Howard places. The indications," he says, "are that SCC believes that most, if not all, children living in the catchment and attending a feeder school will be offered a place at the Howard if that is their preference, which is excellent.

"However, for those not at a feeder school, such as those attending denominational primary schools, families recently moving to the area or those wishing to move from private education, if any spaces do remain, priority will go to those in the Horsleys and the west of the catchment at the expense of children living closer to the school."

Cox fears that this policy's apparent damage limitation allows SCC to carry on with the, in DDOCA's view, flawed NAS criterion and promotes apathy in Bookham. He also fears that, if SCC over-offers again this year, and only a few children lose Howard places, "everyone in the Bookhams will wonder what the fuss is and DDOCA disappears."

It's already working, he says: "The response from the Bookhams to the 2010 consultation was very poor – less than half of the Horsleys with a much bigger population."

The DDOCA wants anyone living within the catchment area who is unsuccessful in their application for The Howard for 2009 to e-mail DDOCA advising the campaign where they live and which school they have been allocated.

2010 – Consultation on admissions criteria – important dates

On 26 February DDOCA presents to SCC's Schools & Learning Select Committee (SLSC) objecting to the Nearest Available School (NAS) criterion. The campaign will also emphasise that, if NAS is retained, the retention of the feeder schools and a fair catchment area are critical to providing some protection to those living in the Bookhams.

This closed meeting, says Cox, is the one DDOCA has to influence, "just to keep what we have. There is a danger we may not." The SCC Officers have put forward their recommendation to the Schools Admissions Forum who then pass it onto the SLSC. It is hard to overrule the Officers but not impossible. They want NAS and may even move the catchment – to the detriment of the East.

The SLSC's final recommendation for 2010 admissions criteria goes to the Executive for approval on March 3. DDOCA will also present to that meeting, which is held in public. Details will be published on the DDOCA's website, as will the meeting's decision.

Since the meeting is public, says Cox, "It will be good if we had some support just to show the community cares about the issue – an issue which will not go away until SCC increase the capacity. And that is our long term goal."

Update, April 2009: DDOCA reports mixed success
The DDOCA campaign reported on its website that it was pleased that, as a result of the March 3 meeting, all children living in the Howard catchment area and attending one of the five feeder schools were offered places in 2009. Though disappointed that two children in the east of the Bookham/Fetcham catchment who could walk or cycle to the school were not offered a place, "this is a much lower figure than we had expected." DDOCA also noted that 17 of the 136 siblings offered places this year "are ‘out of catchment siblings’ for whom the Howard is not their closest school."

But the news on criteria for 2010 Admissions is not so good. The DDOCA had objected to the NAS tie break as inequitable and difficult for parents to understand. If it were retained, the DDOCA would support the retention of the catchment and five existing feeder schools. And it proposed a long-term solution to reduce the priority for “out of catchment siblings”. This would provide places for all children living in the catchment and would make NAS or any other special criteria unnecessary.

The meeting voted to retain the NAS and against changing the priority for out of catchment siblings on the recommendation of Councillor Peter Martin (Con, Godalming South Milford and Witley), Surrey's cabinet member for schools, children and youth services.

Martin said SCC needed “a period of stability to enable those arrangements to be tested robustly and to provide some benchmarking for parents to make informed decisions.” But he went on to recommend changing the criteria for 2010 to include the Royal Kent, near Oxshott, as an additional feeder school.

Says DDOCA: "The addition of the Royal Kent… was not consulted on, nor raised at the public meeting at The Howard in December attended by over 200 local people." Bookham and Fetcham West SCC member Jim Smith had made a statement to the Full Council objecting to the late inclusion of the Royal Kent as a feeder school.

Smith said: "The Executive was informed that all of the schools in the ELP supported the request of the Admissions Forum to include the Royal Kent. However, I am advised that this in not so and I have received e-mails from Chairmen of Governors in some of the feeder schools to confirm this.

"It is clear that if the County Council accepts this part of the recommendation in Item 11, it will perpetuate the deep seated feeling of those that I represent, that the integrity of the Schools Admission Consultation process in Surrey, is either at best very confused, or more likely not to be trusted."

DDOCA lodges its funds with BRA

January 10, 2009: The Don't Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) campaign is to transfer its funds to the Bookham Residents' Association. DDOCA was set up to campaign for fair treatment for Bookham children in the allocation of places at the Howard of Effingham School.

The DDOCA will retain its own committee, currently three strong, and identity, says DDOCA's David Cox. He told the BRA committee, meeting on January 5, that the DDOCA committee's active members are concerned that, if the DDOCA became moribund, the money it had raised from the public should go to an organisation that would benefit the local community, "and use that money wisely." He added that, at the moment, such a prospect was theoretical but had to be provided for.

Click here to read the full story and more from the BRA's latest committee meeting.

Current selection process still marred by unfairness, say Bookham parents

December 8, 2008: Over 200 attended the meeting organised by The Howard and Surrey County Council (SCC) to allow local communities to discuss the issues surrounding admissions to The Howard and give them the information they need to respond to the public consultation. The Bugle here publishes (with some additional information) DDOCA's account of the 2nd December meeting at the Howard of Effingham on local admissions to the school. The original DDOCA page is here.

The meeting was chaired by one of the SCC Officers with presentations by:-

Peter-John Wilkinson, an officer of Surrey county Council (SCC), who gave the background to how SCC developed the proposed 2010 admission criteria for the Howard. The criteria remain the same as for 2009.

The Bookham group Don't Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) and then the Horsley campaign Kepp Horsley in the Howard (KhiTH) presented their views on the policy and its impact. Click here to see DDOCA's presentation.

[Click here to see KhiTH's view.]

Southern Counties Radio was present and interviewed a number of those attending. The issue of the Howard was the main subject of the breakfast phone in.

Many questions were asked by the audience. SCC noted all points raised and will use them as part of the evidence for the consultation that closes on the 9 January 2009.

The majority of questions were fielded by Mr Wilkinson.

Questions showed that there remained a lot of confusion about Next Alternative School (NAS), one of DDOCA's objections to the criterion. Click here for DDOCA's explanation of NAS as it relates to the east of the Howard.

Statement by DDOCA Committee

We would like to thank the SCC Officers and express our appreciation for the professional and fair way in which the meeting was conducted but particularly for the very professional manner in which Mr Wilkinson dealt with the questions/ issues (even those he could / would not answer !!).

DDOCA look forward to working with the officers in the future and urge that the foundations of this meeting are built upon by all parties by being open and transparent. Most importantly, that ALL the possible scenarios (Surrey Standard, NAS etc) for 2009 are modelled and that the results are shared with all interested parties.

Summary and the future

The Effingham Learning Partnership (ELP), DDOCA and KHiTH appear to agree that all our communities who are in the catchment should have fair and equal access to the Howard.

Our concern is that this is not the case and that some communities (Horsley, Ockham & Downside) are favoured at the expense of others (Effingham, Bookham and West Fetcham) living closer to the school.

The Howard is apparently the only secondary school in Surrey that regularly cannot accommodate children for which it is the nearest school and it is an indictment of the planners in the County. The school needs more capacity but it seems unlikely that the school will be extended and if it does unfortunately it would be many years before it happened.

The DDOCA Committee takes no pleasure in disagreeing with SCC but the lack of modelling and transparency, past experience, the ELP’s potential stance on NAS/ Feeder schools and feed back from the communities that the criterion does not provide equal treatment and fairness, leaves us no alternative but to continue to oppose the criteria.

Please respond to the on-line consultation by 9 January, 2009. DDOCA disagree with the proposed criteria (for reasons given below) but it is essential that everyone give their views. The online consultation limits you to 500 characters, but you can also send a fuller note to

DDOCA also appeals for help distributing leaflets at the Bookham Christmas night, this Thursday, December 11, 2008 and/or posting them to the wider community.

Other Help needed - Please e-mail us to volunteer, saying what you can do and which school your child is attending. We would particularly like some new committee members – who feel strongly about this issue as well as those with media and copy expertise would be very welcome.


We would like to thank the Howard, the ELP and particularly the officers of SCC for facilitating this event. Click link below for details of the Meeting.

Summary of DDOCA's position
DDOCA continue to disagree with the proposed Nearest Alternative School (NAS) tie-break because:-

[] It gives those in the west of the catchment (West Horsley) special treatment at the expense of those to the east of the Howard (Bookham/Fetcham borders) who live much closer to the school. The communities advantaged do have access to more alternative schools where there are available spaces

[] It is very difficult for parents to understand (Click here for explanation on website).

[] It has unforeseen knock-on effects on other schools and communities.

[] It prejudices children who would walk/cycle to school in favour of children already travelling greater distances by bus/car.

[] Many benefits of cycling/walking to school – health, concentration, community, green, free etc.

We believe that the Surrey standard criterion, of distance from the school, should be reinstated as a fairer tie-break.

However if NAS remains the tie-break, it is essential that attendance at one of the feeder schools is retained as this shares the available spaces slightly more fairly across the catchment. Apparently the ELP is "considering" a recommendation that NAS is retained but feeder schools are removed.

This would be a disaster for Bookham and Fetcham. Please see an SCC map shown here which shows how children east of a line from Bookham Station to the Crabtree lights would not obtain places. This map is used by Keep Horsley in the Howard to support their case to have NAS without feeder schools as the tie break for admissions to the Howard in 2008. The data is based on 2006 and modelled for 2007.

DDOCA is in favour of expanding the Howard so that it can accommodate all the children for whom it is the nearest school.

For further up-to-date information see the DDOCA website.

Thank you for your support

DDOCA Committee


Surrey County Council and the Howard of Effingham School have called a meeting to discuss the Howard's admissions policy for 2010 onwards. According to the Don’t Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) campaign set up to give Bookham children a greater chance of admission to the Howard, "What is agreed for 2010 will apply for admissions up to 2012."

The consequences of the decision will affect our communities for very many years, says the DDOCA: "We must all make the effort now, as this will affect any local children of any age who want to attend our local secondary school."

The DDOCA says the proposals for 2010 are that places will be allocated with the following order of priority:
1.East Horsley
2.West Horsley
3. Ockham
4. Effingham (0.2 miles from school )
5. Downside
6. Little Bookham (0.4 miles from school)
7. Great Bookham
8. Fetcham borders.

The campaign says SCC admitted at a public meeting last year that, with this policy, it could not guarantee that even a child living in Effingham will get a place at the Howard of Effingham: "The only slight concession to this unjust criterion last year was the inclusion of feeder schools and catchment. It is rumoured that there may be pressure to remove feeder schools which would mean that more children in Bookham and the Fetcham borders would lose [their places]. The recession will increase this pressure further."

The DDOCA action plan is:

Attend the public meeting on 2nd December– this is a rare and important opportunity.

AND Circulate this note and inform others living in the Bookhams, Effingham and Fetcham about this issue and the need to complete the consultation.

AND Write and express your views to:-
Anne Macavoy, Head of Admissions, Surrey County Council, E mail:- before the 2nd December if possible. This does not replace the online consultation.

AND Respond to the online consultation which closes on 9th January.

In October the DDOCA issued a statement summarised below:
Admissions criteria – 2009
On 12th September DDOCA was advised that the Royal Kent Primary School in Oxshott had objected to the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) to the admissions criteria for the Howard of Effingham for 2009.

We had already registered as an interested party with the OSA so, in contrast to the situation in 2007, our community was potentially in a position to place the counter-argument to such objectors’ statements as, “The changes for admission criteria 2008, which were the result of an Adjudicator decision, worked perfectly well and all partnership schools and parents were happy with the numbers of pupils admitted to the Howard of Effingham,” or that the 2008 criteria, which made no allowance for the distance a child lived from The Howard, should“ be reinstated”

Many local parents were far from happy. In 2008 children living less that a mile from The Howard, attending non-feeder state schools, have had to give their places to non-siblings living in Oxshott, Cobham, Stoke D'Abernon and Ripley. All these places have access to a number of alternative schools significantly closer to them.

We are relieved that the adjudicator did not reinstate 2008 criteria, but disappointed that, because she has concluded that she does not have jurisdiction to make a determination on Royal Kent’s objection, she also was unable to take the opportunity to rectify the damage done by the adjudicator’s involvement in 2007, as we had requested.

The problems began in March 2007, when 35 children, including children in our area, received disappointing placements and were offered schools in Banstead, Esher and Woking. In order to avoid significantly worse headlines in March 2008, Surrey County Council over-offered at the two nearest schools alone: The Howard by 15 and Therfield by 55. Both are now apparently at capacity and we are concerned that they will not be able to over-offer in 2009.

What the current proposals mean to Bookham and Fetcham

If you live in the catchment area and attend one of the feeder schools (Oakfield, Eastwick, St Lawrence, The Raleigh or The Dawnay) you have priority over those who do not.

However, in any tie break within the catchment, those living to the west and north west of the catchment (Horsley, Ockham, Downside) and who attend a feeder school will have priority over those in Bookham who also attend such a school.

It is irrelevant whether your nearest alternative school has any spaces, only that it is there. Outside the catchment, places would then be allocated according to the standard Surrey tie-break of distance from the school. However we still firmly believe that the tie break clause of “distance from the nearest alternative school” is unfair, favouring those who do not walk and cycle to the Howard, and will continue to oppose it.

Concerns about the admissions criteria for 2009 and the future

2009 is a ‘high birth year’ with the classes in all feeder schools for The Howard being at full capacity. Further, Surrey County Council (SCC) has confirmed that the 2009 intake will have a significantly higher number of siblings at the Howard, because of the anomalies of the last two years, with siblings having priority regardless of where they live now and which primary school they attend and therefore it is likely that 20-30 fewer places will be available to non siblings. The result is that children in the catchment for the Howard who live in the Bookham/Fetcham borders, despite DDOCA’S efforts, may not be offered places in 2009, whilst children living further away to the west and north west will.

DDOCA - the future

The issue of admissions to the Howard has not gone away. Indeed, we believe that there is likely to be a problem especially in high birth years. If the question of capacity at Surrey’s secondary schools goes un-addressed it will only be a matter of time before Therfield suffers similar issues.

DDOCA need new representatives especially from the Primary and Junior schools for whom school admissions are either an issue now or will be in the future. We support the Village Plan and we will be taking an active part in the education element of this.

DDOCA would like to thank everyone for their support in fighting to allow local children to walk and cycle to their local school. Keep up to date and keep us informed by visiting our website

If you would like to be added to our Email mailing list send an email to

'Councillor did U-turn,' say Bookham parents

March 6, 2008: One in six local children applying for a place at the Howard of Effingham School this September will be disappointed.

That's the conclusion of a survey by the Don’t Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) campaign – set up to give them a greater chance of admission to the Howard of Effingham School – as Bookham's children finally learned from Surrey County Council which schools they will attend in September.

Six of the 37 sets of parents who have returned replies to the DDOCA's questionaire say their children have failed to win Howard places, says Sean Whetstone, DDOCA campaign spokesman. He expects further replies from the remainder of the 240 sets of parents affected by the issue.

Whetstone adds that he knows of three children who have won admission to the Howard from locations that would, under earlier admission rules, have been outside the normal catchment area: two from Oxshott and one from Cobham. Whetstone says there are likely to be many more cases like that which he is unaware of.

One of the six children refused admission had recently moved into Bookham. The other five are from the Kennel Lane area, close to the Bookham-Fetcham border, says Whetstone.

The Bugle will issue more information as further survey results come in.

The DDOCA campaign has issued two new statements this week, below. The campaign also has a new website. Full details also below.

This morning's Leatherhead Advertiser carries a long story on the Howard admissions issue. The paper reports that parents have been angered by a decision taken at a meeting of Surrey County Council's executive 10 days ago. Parents were particularly angered, the paper reports, by the decision of Cllr Andrew Crisp, the SCC's executive member for schools, to support the 'next alternative school' as a tie-breaker in admissions to oversubscribed schools. The Bookham parents favour 'closest school' as a decider and say, according to the Leatherhead Advertiser, that Cllr Crisp had also supported this approach.

The DDOCA's reaction to the decision is the subject of the first statement (below).

More information on the Howard story as it becomes available.

The first of the DDOCA's two bulletins is dated March 4:
Update on full Surrey County Council meeting on 4th March and 2008 Admissions Update

'Today at County Hall the full Surrey County Council voted on School Admissions for 2009 for the whole of Surrey.

'DDOCA lobbied each the Council's 75 members by letter in advance of today's meeting explaining the reasons for our continued opposition to the use of Next Alternative School (NAS) as a tie breaker.

'Bookham County Councillor Jim Smith tabled an amendment which was seconded by Tim Hall, Fetcham's County Councillor, to remove NAS as a tie breaker for the Howard of Effingham and return to the standard Surrey tie-break.

'We estimate 12 councillors voted for this amendment while another 10 abstained.

'While the 2009 admissions policy was still passed by those following political etiquette, we believe it highlighted yet again some still feel uncomfortable with the proposed tie-break for 2009 admissions at The Howard.

'We have started to receive feedback today from parents of offer letters arriving for the school places.

'Early results to our questionnaire show the majority of those answering being offered a place at the Howard but some have been disadvantaged.

'We hope your children were all successful in their applications but whatever the result would welcome your feedback in the questionnaire [click here].

'We still strongly believe that Surrey Standard Criteria would have delivered the same results and have challenged SCC to run 2008 admissions against Surrey's Standard Criteria.'

The second notice is dated March 3:
Parents of year six children

'By Monday or Tuesday this week, you should have received your secondary school offer letter. In order to help us assess if there are any areas which have not been offered places at the Howard and to assist those who may need to go to appeal, we would be most grateful if you would complete the following questionnaire.

'We have asked for your address and postcode purely so we can produce an overall map of areas which have been successful and those which have been unsuccessful at attaining a place at the Howard.

'We will not be using any of the information you provide in isolation; all information you provide will be amalgamated with data from across the whole area.

'The short questionnaire can be taken online [here]. Click on the questionnaire link on the main page of our website .

'If you are not aparent of a year six child but know year-six parentswho might not be on this email list pleaseforward this questionnaire email onto them.'

New Website Launched Today

Don’t Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA), the campaign set up by Bookham parents to ease local children's admission to the Howard of Effingham School has launched a new website. The address is

The DDOCA welcomes comments or questions at this email address.

SCC committee fudges decision

February 15, 2008: Surrey County Council (SCC) has fudged a decision about its admissions policy to the Howard of Effingham School.

The non-decision is a blow for Bookham parents concerned that SCC admission policy puts local children at the back of the queue if the Howard is over-subscribed.

By the January 31 deadline, the SCC's Schools and Learning Committee reports(item 4 on this SCC web page), it had received 864 submissions in favour of the modified local admissions arrangements for the Howard and 899 against. As the committee says in its report on the consultation published on February 12, "the majority
of those supporting the proposals were from Horsley. Those that disagreed were from the Bookham and Fetcham areas."

The modified local admissions arrangements for the Howard proposed the following order of priority:
1) Looked After Children
2) Exceptional circumstances
3) Siblings
4) Children attending the following partner schools:
a. The Raleigh
b. Eastwick Junior
c. The Royal Kent
d. St Lawrence
e. The Dawnay
f. Oakfield
5) Any other applicant.

"In cases where there are more applicants for this school in any one category than there are places available, priority will be given to children living furthest away from the nearest alternative school. Distance will be measured by a straight line from home to the nearest entrance to the school accessible to pupils."

A report in today's Surrey Advertisersays Surrey's refusal to take a decision leaves the modified admissions policy in place and casts leaves all the Howard's potential students and their parents in uncertainty. The two factions are agreed, says the paper, that Surrey's catchment area map (which the Bugle has been unable to download successfully from the SCC site) will do nothing to resolve the conflict. It covers all the villages at issue so will do nothing to prevent the Howard's becoming over-subscribed again.

'Surrey has duty to support sustainable travel'

February 4, 2008: After a packed public meeting addressed by local notables including Surrey County Councillor Jim Smith (right) at the Barn Hall on January 27, the leaders of the campaign to change admissions policy at the Howard of Effingham made a detailed submission to Surrey County Council (SCC). The submission was part of a consultation process which ended on January 31.

As reported ('Fight doesn't end…, below) Bookham parents are fighting a decision to give children from East Horsley a higher priority for admissions to the Howard than their own.

In a statement issued today the campaign, called Don’t Drive Our Children Away (DDOCA) said it had submitted 'a detailed 13 page response to [the] 2009 Admissions consultation.

DDOCA said the submission was 'backed up by evidence in the form of 17 appendices in which we totally opposed the proposed criterion of distance to nearest alternative school as a tie breaker.

'Our submission is a well researched document and uses evidence that we have gathered over the time since the publication of the Adjudicator's ruling for 2008. We have included the maps that we showed you at the recent public meeting and which clearly demonstrate that the application of the nearest alternative school tie-break will dramatically alter the Howard catchment based on the old APA by bringing in communities that have not historically attended the school at the expense of giving the lowest priority to other communities who have traditionally gone there.

'We have also included a considerable benchmarking exercise that we carried out in relation to the proposed tie-break which demonstrates that the tie-break is not used in isolation anywhere else in the country, is unsuitable in the proposed situation, and that other authorities believe that it cannot be used in conjunction with equal preference.

'We argue that the way in which Surrey seek to apply the tie-break would contravene the Admissions Code and the duty of Surrey County Council to promote sustainable travel. The fact that the tie-break risks putting children who would otherwise walk or cycle to school in a position where this is no longer an option for them is a further argument against the tie-break.

'We demonstrate that there are a number of schools with available places within a reasonable journey time of the Horsleys and that the increase in journey time is proportionately less than the increase for children within walking distance of the Howard.

'We are hopeful that Surrey County Council will acknowledge the arguments contained in our submission and that it will help inform them in reaching an equitable solution to admissions for the Howard. We will keep you informed and please keep checking our website for the latest news.'

January 4, 2008: Parents in Bookham, Fetcham and Effingham have failed to win a judicial review of changes to admission rules for the Howard of Effingham comprehensive school.

The parents were outraged when a government admissions adjudicator upheld changes to Surrey County Council's (SCC's) rules to make admission to the Howard easier for pupils from Horsley than those from the three nearer villages.

The Bookham and other parents formed a group, 'Don't Drive Our Children Away' (DDOCA) to publicise the issue and raise money for a legal campaign. the first step was to seek a judicial review of the adjudicator's decision. "We are the first group of parents to privately fund a judicial review," says the DDOCA.

On December 14 Mr Justice Sullivan refused the application in the High Court on the grounds that the application had been filed too late. The judge noted that the adjudicator had changed the rules on September 27. But the DDOCA had not filed its application until November 29, when the admissions process was already well under way.

"The refusal was not based on a flaw in our argument," said the DDOCA. "Obviously this is a big disappointment to the communities of Bookham, Effingham and Fetcham but the fight does not end there.

"The Don't Drive Our Children Away team are raising complaints under the parliamentary government ombudsman system and a number of other initiatives for 2008 admissions which are still being worked on."

The admissions policy will change again in 2009, the statement added.

For more information visit the DDOCA website.

Bookham parents claim admissions policy 'biased against local children'

When Surrey County Council (SCC) informed parents in March 2007 of school-place allocations for the following September there was uproar from one corner of the county. A change in Surrey's admission rules meant that over 30 children in East and West Horsley who had expected to go to the Howard were allocated places at Therfield in Leatherhead and at schools in Guildford and Woking instead.

According to Andrew Baxter of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator (OSA) , who ruled on the case (panel above), the changes Surrey had made to its 2007 admission arrangements after 'extensive consultation' 'were designed to take account of developing national policy and to simplify what had become an elaborate and complex set of arrangements.'

The criteria for the September 2007 entry to the Howard were the same as for all other Surrey schools. Siblings, whether from feeder schools or not, had first priority (after children in care and those with exceptional arrangements). Next came children who lived nearest a school – and the decider if 'tie-break' decisions had be made between pupils with otherwise equal claims to a place was the shortest, straight-line distance from school.

Said Baxter, though the SCC's changes 'appear to have been successfully implemented across the County,' they had unintended impacts on admissions to some schools. Some children, he said, meaning those in the Horsleys, had been 'denied places at schools which have traditionally served their communities.'

To pacify the Horsley parents , the SCC set out new proposals, notified to schools in a letter dated 9 May 2007, for six feeder or 'partner' schools for the Howard of Effingham: the Dawnay and Eastwick Junior in Bookham, St Lawrence in Effingham, the Raleigh in Horsley, Oakfield in Fetcham and Royal Kent Oxshott, all members of the Effingham Learning Partnership.

This created an immediate problem. The Howard had only 240 places in 2008 for the 330 'Year 6' children (discounting siblings) in the feeder schools.

The Howard was eventually able to offer all applicants a place by adding an extra class. And, according to 'Don't Drive Our Children Away' (DDOCA), the limited company set up by parents in Bookham, Effingham and Fetcham to contest the adjudicator's ruling, at the end of the 2007 allocation process the Howard even had some spare places. These were reallocated to children from Fetcham who had already accepted places at alternative schools.

But the Horsley parents still weren't happy. As Baxter put it, the SCC's proposals were 'less secure than [these residents] might reasonably expect.' The parents appealed to the OSA to have the admissions criteria for the Howard of Effingham changed.

Every child, said Baxter, should be 'confident of admission to at least one reasonably accessible school.' Since any surplus numbers among the 'partner schools', said Baxter, might still work against pupils from the Horsleys unless they already had a sibling at the Howard, this was unfair to the 'small but significant minority of children' who lived in the Horsleys.

Baxter's September 27 ruling upheld the Horsley parents' objections: 'Priority will be given to children living furthest away from the nearest alternative school' as measured by a straight line from home to the school's nearest entrance. A similar ruling was made for the Oxted School in the Tandridge district.

The ruling relies on an interpretation of the legally enforceable School Admissions Code which stresses the need to balance the needs of rural pupils, who may not have easy access to an alternative school, with those of urban children, who have more choice.

So, by one interpretation, the issue has been settled by Baxter's view that the Horsleys is 'rural' and Bookham, Effingham and Fetcham are 'urban': 'It is accepted that both of these alternatives would have the effect of displacing some children living closer to the Howard of Effingham School, but their proposers point out that these children will have reasonable access to at least one alternative school.'

Parents in Bookham feel the SCC and the adjudicator made a cosy arrangement with the well-heeled 'Keep Horsley in the Howard' campaign without consulting those who would be affected by that accommodation.

Which is why DDOCA was set up to object to the criteria for 2008 'and to propose a fair solution for the future'. Such a solution, says the DDOCA, would 'ensure that the children living most local to the school, many of whose families have walked and cycled to the Howard for many decades, do not needlessly have to be bussed to schools some distance from their homes.'

The ruling lasts one year because the SCC is still revising its admission proposals. It plans drop the use of feeder schools for admissions in September 2009. Surrey's 2009 proposals are published on its website.

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