Changes have been made to East Renfrewshire Council’s admissions policy in a bid to ensure local residents continue to receive top priority when applying for school places, writes Monica Gibson.

A full public consultation into the way places are allocated at schools within the area was held last year, as the council aimed to continue meeting the high demand in a fair and consistent way.

Following overwhelming support for introducing a single set of school admissions criteria, the new arrangements came into effect in January.

And, after operating the new arrangements for allocating places for the school session which began last month, some areas of the policy have now been strengthened and approved by members of the council’s Education Committee.

According to ERC, residents were very clear in the consultation feedback that they wanted to see further action regarding fraudulent attempts to gain places in East Renfrewshire schools and for locals to be given priority to a place in their catchment school.

In response to this feedback, one area of the policy which has now been amended is in relation to pupils who move out of the catchment area and submit a ‘request to remain’ application.

Councillor Paul O’Kane, East Renfrewshire’s education and equalities convener, told the Barrhead News: “As a result of the excellent experiences and educational outcomes for all children and young people who attend East Renfrewshire schools, unsurprisingly the demand for places in our schools continues to grow.

“As a result of an ever-growing school age population, it is vital that the council ensures the availability of school places for children in local schools.

“The council’s school admissions policy is now very clear that, when a child who initially attended a school as a catchment pupil no longer resides in the catchment area, a placing request to remain must be submitted.

“If a child who lives in the catchment area of the school is being redirected to an alternative non-catchment school due to the year stage in question being full, then an application to remain will be refused.

“Conversely, should there be places available and no children being redirected, the request to remain will be granted.

“This policy will assist in ensuring that local residents will always have a higher priority to a local school place than someone who lives outwith the area.”

ERC has reiterated it is important that all relevant information is taken into account when considering a request to remain application, with each case to be considered on its own merits.

A range of other measures had already been introduced in an attempt to tackle the number of fraudulent attempts to gain access to East Renfrewshire schools.

The rental agreement documentation which is required now needs to be for a minimum of one year, instead of the six months previously asked for.

And, where there is significant doubt about where an applicant resides or if allegations of falsified information are received by the council, the steps taken to confirm this may include surveillance, where it is deemed it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

More information about the admissions policy can be found online.