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A decision to cut the intake of gifted pupils at a south London secondary school was today struck down by a High Co...
A decision to cut the intake of gifted pupils at a south London secondary school was today struck down by a High Court judge.

Wandsworth LBC challenged a school adjudicator's decision to cut the proportion of 'academic ability' places from 33 to 30% - a cut from 60 to 54 pupils - at the ever-popular Ernest Bevin College.

And today Mr Justice Goldring, upheld the council's case and overturned the adjudicator's decision which he described as 'flawed'. The adjudicator will now have to urgently reconsider the issue.

Although the case only directly concerned the boys-only Ernest Bevin College, the judge's ruling is also likely to effect the selective admissions policies of Graveney and Burntwood Schools.

Wandsworth's barrister, Elizabeth Laing, earlier told the judge objections to the college's selection policy were based on claims that it admits 'a disproportionately high number of high ability children.'

The adjudicator, Professor David Newton, said this claim was 'not made out' but nevertheless went on to decide that the college's selective intake should be cut from 33 to 30%.

Objections to the college's selective intake were spear-headed by 34 North Battersea parents who said it was 'directly damaging' their local secondary school, Battersea Technical College, and 'worked against the interests of parents and children in the local community.'

Complaints were made that Ernest Bevin's selection policy, along with those of the Graveney and Burntwood Schools, left other local schools 'unable to achieve a balanced intake.'

However, Mr Justice Goldring said partial selection at the three schools 'was not a sufficient and primary cause of any unfairness that might result to children in SW11' to justify the adjudicator's stance.

The real problem, he said, was caused by Battersea Technical College's 'unpopularity' and insufficient places at alternative schools.

He added that the six high abili ty pupils who would 'forced out' of Ernest Bevin College in September 2004 as a result of the adjudicator's ruling would in any event be 'unlikely' to go to Battersea Technical College as their parents 'will not chose to send them there.'

Any possible benefit to Battersea Technical College - in terms of 'levelling the playing field' - of restricting ability selection at the three schools was 'speculative and indirect'.

The judge said: 'Once the adjudicator decided that the objectors were wrong in their fundamental complaint regarding an imbalance in Ernest Bevin College's intake, it seems to me it made it difficult rationally to justify any interference with it.

'The intake did not cause the unfairness of which the parents complained.

'The objective of creating a more balanced intake by reference to the intake into other schools in Wandsworth became by definition impossible to achieve as far as Ernest Bevin College was concerned for it was balanced already.'

The course taken by the adjudicator was 'notrationally capable of correcting the unfairness' and whether it would bring any meaningful benefit to Battersea Technical College was 'highly speculative'.

Overturning the adjudicator's decision, the judge concluded: 'In the circumstances, as far as Ernest Bevin College is concerned, I conclude the adjudicator's decision is flawed.'


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