Catchment areas for secondary school places set to be scrapped in Bury

The changes, if adopted after a consultation, would come into effect for applications for secondary school places for the academic year 2024/25.

Catchment areas to select students for secondary schools are set to be abolished in Bury. 

Bury Council is planning to scrap the catchment areas and the associated over-subscription criteria giving pupils living in a designated area priority for admission to secondary schools.

The changes, if adopted after a consultation, would come into effect for applications for secondary school places for the academic year 2024/25 and would apply to all secondary schools in the borough.

The current admissions policy for secondary schools provides higher priority to those children who reside within the designated catchment area than children with siblings in the school and children who may live geographically closer, but not within the specified catchment area.

The council’s proposed change to policy will remove the barrier for admission to the nearest school, due to the locally set historic boundaries of a catchment area.

The council’s cabinet will decide whether to move forward with the plans at a meeting on Wednesday 1 June.

A report outlining the plans, said: “Catchment areas in Bury have not been reviewed for many years and as a number of secondary schools have closed over time, their previous catchment areas have been amalgamated with other school’s existing catchment areas. As new housing developments have been constructed and continue to be developed, this has resulted in some catchment areas being very large and each school may not have the capacity to accommodate the growing number of children residing within its designated catchment area.

“In some cases, children reside in a catchment area of a school which is further away and less accessible than their nearest geographically located school.”

Under the new system children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) will be given a place at the school named in their plan.

When schools are oversubscribed, priority for allocation of places will be firstly, children in public care and previously looked after children and secondly children who have an older brother or sister in the school in the September of the year of admission. After that if there is over-subscription, places will be offered using straight line distance from the child’s home address to the school as a tiebreaker.

The distance will be measured using the council’s computerised mapping system, which measures from the address point of the home to the address point of the school using the local land and property gazetteer. Those living closer to the school will receive the higher priority.

Of the 13 secondary schools in Bury, four are community schools, eight are academies and one is voluntary aided. The council is responsible for coordinating the admission of all children to Bury schools and academies.

Should the council cabinet give approval to consult later this week there will be an eight-week consultation period from October to December this year. Analysis of consultation responses will be undertaken and recommendations made to the cabinet by February 2023 to determine the 2024 admission policy for secondary schools.