Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sciennes P1 intake

There has been some concern and confusion about the size of the P1 intake in the coming Session for Sciennes Primary School. A full summary and the Council position was contained in a recent letter for a concerned parent. A lengthy extract is appended below:

"An intake limit of 90 pupils was originally agreed for the new P1 at Sciennes Primary School (2 classes of 25 and 1 class of 40 with 2 teachers). However, as there were 92 catchment pupils and accommodation problems at both James Gillespies and St Mary’s (Leith) RC Primary Schools, it was agreed to raise the intake to 99 pupils (2 classes of 25, 1 class of 38 with 2 teachers and 1 P1/2 composite class of 25 – 11P1/14P2). A limit of 99 pupils would allow the formation of 3 classes of 33 at a future stage.

37 non catchment placing requests were received and all refused initially on the grounds that admission would:

(1) have the consequence that the capacity of the school would be exceeded in terms of pupil numbers in terms of section 28A (3) (a) (vii) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, as amended,
(2) be likely to be seriously detrimental to the educational wellbeing of pupils attending the school, in terms of section 28A (3) (a) (v) of the Act.

It should be noted that the above could only be avoided by undertaking works which would:-

(3) give rise to significant expenditure on extending or otherwise altering the accommodation at or facilities provided in connection with the school, which in terms of section 28A (3) (a) (ii) of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, as amended, is also a ground for refusal.

All refused applicants were advised of their statutory right to appeal against the refusal of their request to the Placing in Schools Appeal Committee. The Appeal Committee is a quasi-judicial body, part of the civil justice system and its powers are strictly defined by statute. The Appeal Committee is obliged to uphold the parent’s appeal unless it considers,

(a) that one of the grounds of refusal set out in legislation exists and

(b) that, in all the circumstances, it is appropriate to confirm the education authority’s refusal.

There are therefore 2 stages to the Appeal Committee’s decision. Firstly the Appeal Committee has to consider whether the authority has established a statutory ground of refusal (the common case). If it concludes that it has not, it must allow the Appeal. However, if satisfied that a statutory ground of refusal has been established, the Appeal committee moves to the second stage of the test which involves an exercise of its discretion in determining whether or not to uphold the education authority’s decision. At this stage the focus shifts to take account of the circumstances of the individual child.

In the case of the Sciennes appeals, the Appeal Committee did not agree that the authority had established a statutory ground of refusal and agreed to uphold all the appeals presented to it. The decision of the Appeal Committee is final and the authority must abide by their decision. As a result, the new P1 intake at Sciennes has been raised to 111. This decision of the Appeal Committee may have an impact on our ability to accommodate all catchment pupils in session 2010/11 but it is too early to say. The situation will become much clearer early next year when we know the number of catchment pupils registered and the numbers of pupils attending the school at that time. This will allow us to plan the class organisation for 2010/11".

It may interest you to know that during the past few weeks the authority successfully defended appeals for 27 primary schools, losing 2 “common cases”(Sciennes and Roseburn) and 7 individual cases for other schools based on the particular circumstances of the pupils/families."

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