RISC's Analysis of the 2013 Secondary School Offer Data

March 1st was "National Offer Day" for secondary school places.

Following responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by RISC supporters, we can now publish the council's preliminary offer data.  We are publishing two sets of data:

  • The borough-wide offer data issued by the council is HERE.
  • Detailed information on the offers for St. Richard Reynolds Catholic College is HERE.

We can use the information to give some early insight into how well Richmond Council is doing compared to its 2011 forecast of secondary places.  You may remember, we were quite critical of the forecast at the time, and produced some detailed analysis on why we thought it was making some risky assumptions.

We have produced a detailed picture of the offer data in comparison with the 2011 forecast.  Click on the image to see it in more detail.


2013 offers compared with 2011 forecasts


Of course the picture presented by the offer data may change considerably between now and September, as waiting lists shift and more families get their preferred schools.  We will wait until the Autumn to make a fuller assessment, but here are some preliminary thoughts:

  • 2013 is an easier year due to a temporary dip in demand

Fewer children came out of borough primaries in 2013 than in 2012, and the number of secondary applications was the lowest for 5 years, so no-one expected a shortage of places this year. We welcome the fact that a higher proportion of Richmond children were offered a place at one of their preferred schools than in previous years. The snag is that there are big increases in numbers coming down the track each year from 2014 onwards.

  • Offers to out of borough children have gone up instead of down

Schools are not allowed by law to discriminate against out-of-borough children. As most of our schools are near borough boundaries, and select on distance, they do make a lot of offers to children from other boroughs.

The Council's forecast said that the number of places taken up by children from outside the borough would go down by over 100 between 2012 and 2013, and keep dropping every year till 2019.

However the number of offers made to out-of-borough children has gone up by about 50 from 2012 to 2013.  If all of the out-borough offers are accepted, that could make the take-up nearly 150 more than was forecast. That's equivalent to a 5-form of entry secondary school!

  • Improving quality means increasing demand

As we argued in our original analysis of the council's 2011 forecast, this borough has a lower proportion of local children going on from state primaries to state secondaries than anywhere else in London. Even if the proportion just increased to the average of the other 10 most prosperous boroughs that would mean an increase in demand for secondary places equivalent to a complete new school. 

The better the borough's secondaries get, the more parents will decide they don't need to pay school fees to get a high quality school.

Grey Court in Ham has just been awarded an "outstanding" from Ofsted. That's wonderful news, and a tribute to Maggie Bailey and her team. The only snag is, the Council's forecast assumed that a third of the places at Grey Court would be freed up in 2015.  They assume that North Kingston parents will prefer a new school they expect to open by then.  However we think the recent Ofsted rating means Grey Court will remain as first choice for many for some years to come.

  • The supply of places is lower than forecast

The Council forecast said there would be 35 spare places on the Twickenham side of the borough in 2013, all at Twickenham Academy, and 87 at Richmond Park Academy (RPA) in Sheen.  They vigorously denied that any children would be forced to travel to RPA from the Twickenham side of the Thames.

That was partly because they also expected an additional 100 places would appear at a new free school opening in 2013 somewhere on the Twickenham side.  However, that didn't happen. (Although the Turing House free school team are aiming to secure approval and a site to open in 2014).

The Council also said they would open a new 150 place/year community school in 2016.  The plan is now for it to open in 2017 instead, on the Richmond College site.

To put those dates and numbers into context, its worth pointing out that by 2016, almost 400 more children will be transferring from Richmond primaries than in 2013.

  • It was a strange first year for St. Richard Reynolds Catholic High School

The only reason Twickenham children are not being offered places at RPA in 2013 is that there are spare places at the new St. Richard Reynolds Catholic High School (SRR) this year.

However, this is an unusual year for SRR for three reasons:

  1. The school does not open until September 2013;
  2. Last year’s court case created uncertainty;
  3. This is the first year that children from Catholic primaries have had an equal chance of a place at the borough’s community secondaries following the Council’s decision to drop the Linked School admissions system.

So we don’t think it would be fair to draw any general conclusions from the applications and offers made for 2013.

Nevertheless, it is perhaps surprising that after all the insistence about the need for a Catholic secondary in the borough, of the 250 or so children emerging from Catholic primaries this year, only 75 actually applied for the new school’s 150 places.

 2013 Preliminar offers made by St. Richard Reynolds Catholic High School

Click on the pie chart for a detailed picture.  Of the remaining places, offers were made to 22 other children from Catholic families, some from outside the borough, 23 to non-Catholics who had expressed a preference for the school, plus a further 23 who were allocated places at SRR by the Council, despite not having expressed a preference for it.  Some of them are fine with that, others are unhappy. 

We welcome the opportunity for non-Catholics to attend the new school if they wish. The snag is that the inclusiveness is likely to be short-lived. As soon as the school is fully subscribed, Catholic families will have absolute priority, even if they don’t live in the borough.

In future years the Council’s forecast that they will fill SRR entirely is likely to prove correct.  So even the younger siblings of non-Catholics entering SRR this year aren't guaranteed a place.

RISC's Conclusions
On the basis of the 2013 offers, unless there’s a future reduction in offers to out-of-borough children, there may not be enough places in borough secondary schools by 2015 and 2016.

As we've said before, the Council took a big and unnecessary risk in using the Clifden Road site for an exclusive Catholic school.