Changes: Dr. Lewis proposes altering admissions
Plans are afoot to favour Bournemouth residents for admission to the school. Under the latest proposal unveiled by the headmaster in January, for entry in September 2018, potential year sevens from the borough will be given preference over those from further afield. Dr. Lewis would like to promote social mobility, by allowing local children from less advantaged backgrounds to gain places at the school.
Under the current system, after eligible boys who are looked after or previously looked after children, the first 120 places are allocated in rank order of test score regardless of residence. The remaining places (usually around thirty) are allocated in rank order of boys in the borough of bournemouth, with preference to those eligible for the Pupil Premium Grant. This is simplified summary, the entire current over-subscription criteria cannot be detailed here, but can be found on the school website for those interested.
The current system only slightly favours Bournemouth residents, and the majority of places can be filled by any boy passing the test. Evidence, for example, the school buses available, the 736 from Poole, and the 789 from Lymington, which both transport students from outside the borough. As popular routes, they show that students travel to school from diverse locations.
The proposed policy, as displayed in the box below, will not necessarily rule out students from Poole, Christchurch, or outside the conurbation. Take note of the use of the term ‘eligible students’, since according to the latest admissions policy “On the basis of their results, boys will either be considered to have met the required standard (and be “eligible”), or not to have reached the required standard (“ineligible”).” In other words, if the requirement of eligibility, which shall henceforth be referred to as the passmark, is high enough, then there will be fewer eligible students in the Bournemouth than there are places at the school, allowing non-residents to win places.
In the event of the school being oversubscribed priority will be given in the following order.
- Eligible boys who are classed as ”Looked After” or have previously been ‘Looked After’
- Eligible boys who live within the Borough of Bournemouth who receive Pupil Premium
- Eligible boys who live within the Borough of Bournemouth and who do not receive Pupil Premium
- Eligible boys who live outside the Borough of Bournemouth, who receive Pupil Premium in rank order of the entrance test scores
- Eligible boys who live outside the Borough of Bournemouth who do not receive Pupil Premium, in rank order of the entrance test scores
The passmark, therefore, will dictate the impact of the change in policy on applicants from outside Bournemouth. If the passmark is high enough, then the change will be mainly symbolic, if not then it will be difficult for those outside the borough to gain places at all.
One of the reasons often given for disadvantaged students not gaining places is the employment of tutors by certain, often more affluent, applicants to prepare them for the entrance tests, which is thought to advantage them when they sit the examinations. The proposal would, by creating a “catchment area”, ensure that external applicants would not be able to influence the admissions procedure in this way, and therefore allow the less advantaged to gain places.
There are, however, potential issues which may arise as a result. The Bournemouthian sees the school as the best in the conurbation. Those living outside the borough certainly contribute much to the school, and removing the near-exact rank-order allocation system may lead to a reduction in results and attainment overall. It is thought that four of the ten students who gained at least 10 A* grades at GCSE last year live outside the borough.
Some also see the change as unfair, particularly for those residing in areas where there are no selective state schools, such as Christchurch and the New Forest. It has been asked why the children of today should be punished by the abolition of the tripartite system in much of the nation in the 1960s – an action beyond their control.
Furthermore, catchment areas are known to drive house prices up. With Bournemouth School having a reputation for excellence, the policy change may lead to a slight increase in house prices, meaning that the disadvantaged living outside of the borough may be unable to live in a satisfactory property in the borough to qualify for priority entry. In fact, regardless of the effect of the creation of a catchment area, prices in Bournemouth are expected to rise faster than in London, pushing disadvantaged families out of the area and therefore reducing the chances of such children winning places. According to estate agents Savills, between 2014 and 2019, house prices in Bournemouth are likely to see an overall rise of 32%, while those in London are likely to increase by 24.4%, against a national average of 25%. This may in fact, mean that the proposal has little effect on the number of disadvantaged students attending the school.
Among the student population, there seem to be mixed opinions, with those outside the borough expectedly tending to oppose a change. The proposal will be the largest revision to the admissions policy in decades, and the decision as to whether the policy should be implemented should not be taken lightly. The entire school community must consider what it wants to be, and what it wants to evolve into in the future. A consultation can be expected this year, and at this point, possibly the most important internal debate in Bournemouth School’s history will begin. It is important that all are involved.
Image courtesy Flickr albertogp123 CC-by licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/