Heads critical of ‘selection letter’ sent to schools

'ERROR' Dame Sharon Hollows, Charter Academy principal
'ERROR' Dame Sharon Hollows, Charter Academy principal

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HEADTEACHERS have criticised a school for sending out letters seeking information about prospective pupils who have applied to join in September.

Charter Academy, in Southsea, gave letters to feeder primary and junior schools in Portsmouth.

The letter asks for information about pupils’ behaviour, effort and attendance, as well as their social interaction, by February 14 – two weeks before the allocation day on March 3.

Headteachers say it’s against the rules, could be seen as a form of selection of pupils and may interfere with the allocations.

Polly Honeychurch is the headteacher of Cottage Grove Primary School in Southsea, one of the feeder schools to Charter Academy.

She said: ‘My view is that I will not give information on any child until after the application date. I don’t want to jeopardise allocations. It breaks the admission code.’

Roberta Kirby is the headteacher at Fernhurst Junior School.

She said: ‘I was a little surprised because I do believe it’s in breach of the admissions code.

‘Children don’t know what school they have got into until after the application day.

‘It’s very important that the system is open and transparent. Charter is a fairly new school but I thought they would have been aware of the law and the regulations.’

Another headteacher, who did not want to be named, said: ‘I think it’s a shocking breach of protocol.

‘It’s very suspicious that a secondary school clearly is trying to find out information about children before places are officially allocated.

‘You have to question what they are doing. It’s selection as far as I’m concerned.

‘It’s a complete lack of trust and respect for protocol within the city.

‘I know now which children in my school have applied to go to Charter.

‘It’s trying to put the other secondary schools at a disadvantage. It’s immoral.’

In a joint statement, Julien Kramer, interim head of education at Portsmouth City Council, and Charter Academy principal, Dame Sharon Hollows, have now said that all feeder schools don’t need to provide information about transition until after the National Allocation Day.

It said: ‘We are working closely with all schools in Portsmouth to support a planned pupil transition in the interest of reassuring parents and reducing uncertainty.

‘Charter prides itself on meeting the diverse individual needs of all children and it’s therefore important primary schools share information that will help Charter to do so. Charter and the council celebrate their work together and both are proud of Charter’s success in proving that Portsmouth’s children are as capable as the most able students in the country.’

When speaking to The News, Dame Sharon said the letter was to prepare for new children joining the school in September.

‘The staff here are just being a bit over-organised,’ she said. ‘It’s just to find out about children so we could meet their needs when they get here. I have said that we don’t need any of this information until after the places have been allocated. It’s a big fuss about nothing.

‘All we are doing is ensuring we meet the individual needs of all the children who come to this school.

‘It was a simple error.’