Against all expectations, Fairfield children applying to middle school without siblings already there did turn out to have a (limited) choice – and most of them chose to put their faith in the new Pix Brook Academy.
Primary school places for September 2019 admission were published on Tuesday 16 April, finally ending months of speculation for Fairfield parents with children currently in Year 4 about where their children would go to middle school.
In theory there was a choice of three schools: Etonbury Academy, our historical catchment school, which has lately been severely oversubscribed; Henlow Church of England Academy, which has taken tens of Fairfield children over the past two years to help relieve the pressure on Etonbury; and new school Pix Brook Academy. Parents living in Fairfield without children already at one or other of the established schools suspected that they would be allocated Pix Brook no matter what they chose – but in fact, this has proved not to be the case.
A significant proportion of applicants without siblings elsewhere chose Pix Brook. This means that the new school will open with a cohort of parents and pupils who believe in its vision, rather than all those who didn’t have a choice.
Rumours began to circulate just before parents submitted their final preferences that Henlow C of E Academy was likely to offer ‘extra’ places – and it did. Between the publication of the orignial schools directory in September and the final allocation in April, its Published Admissions Number (PAN) rose from 140 to 150. This presumably means that the number of pupils per class has increased from 28 to 30.
The ten additional places were not enough to make a difference to anyone in Fairfield, however. Of the 175 applications Henlow received, they still turned 25 away, allocating their last place to a child living 2,256m from the school – roughly the distance of the White Horse pub in Arlesey. Fairfield (or Stotfold) applicants without siblings already at the school would therefore not have been successful, but all those who applied with siblings did make the cut.
The bigger surprise on the day was that Etonbury Academy had received only 169 applications for its 180 places. This is very good news for all those who really wanted Etonbury, since they have been offered places no matter where they live or whether they have siblings already there – a scenario that few expected.
But that is not all. Although it’s only a small undersubscription at Etonbury, it confirms something quite important: a significant proportion of applicants without siblings elsewhere actively chose Pix Brook. This is a triumph for the new school, and means that it will open with a cohort (albeit a small one – it made just 50 offers) of parents and pupils who believe in its vision and want to be there, rather than all those who didn’t have a choice, as was initially feared.
Lower school places are thankfully no longer the problem they once were. Parents of children due to start Reception in September also received their offers on 16 April, and as far as we know there were no nasty surprises. Fairfield Park Lower School received 93 applications for its 90 places, but all applications from within the parish were successful.