ASA Ruling on The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust
The Seckford Foundation Free Schools Trust t/a
Ixworth Free School
1 Seckford Street
30 January 2013
Number of complaints:
A leaflet promoting the development of the Ixworth Free School invited people to attend an open evening to assess the proposal. The ad included the text "We have traditionally had a long history of school choice after our children leave primary school. In this area, your parents or grandparent may have memories of leaving either Beyton or Ixworth Secondary Modern Schools before they were converted to middle schools. The imminent restructure to a two tier system of education in this area will leave our children, for the first time in living memory, with no choice upon leaving primary school".
The complainant, the Suffolk Coalition Opposing Free Schools, objected that the ad was misleading and challenged whether the claim "The imminent restructure to a two tier system of education in this area will leave our children, for the first time in living memory, with no choice upon leaving primary school" could be substantiated.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Seckford Foundation Free School (Seckford) stated that Suffolk was, until recently, divided into three educational administrative areas and that in the Thurston area of Suffolk (which had been based on a three-tier education system) three of the local middle schools were due to close in August 2014. They believed that because Suffolk still structured its admissions on "catchment areas", these closures would have a real impact on the variety of school options available to children in the county. They explained that, as a result of the planned closure of the three middle schools, students who had hoped to attend those schools would instead be transferred to a Community College up to the age of 11, as opposed to the age of 13, as would be the case with a middle school. They believed this was a reduction in choice for parents. They went on to state that many of the schools that the complainant had understood were available to students in the area were not in the relevant catchment area for Ixworth or Thurston and provided the local authority information about the catchment areas for those schools. They also stated, whilst one of the other schools did not have a specific catchment area map available on their website, that website did refer to catchment areas without mentioning Ixworth. They went on to state that two other schools whose catchment areas may have included Ixworth and Thurston were unlikely options for parents and children alike because they were either too far in distance in order to be eligible for free transport and/or were regularly over-subscribed.
The ASA considered that, within the context of an ad about the closure of middle schools in the area, the claim "The imminent restructure to a two tier system of education in this area will leave our children, for the first time in living memory, with no choice upon leaving primary school" would be understood by readers to mean that when children left primary school (at the age of 11) there would only be one option of secondary education available to them. We noted a Community College was due to take pupils who would normally have gone to three of the available middle schools in the area under the old system and that this was the choice that was being referred to. We understood parents of children leaving primary school in Suffolk in 2014 would have three preferences of secondary schools across the area and that each preference would be prioritised according to a particular schools over-subscription criteria. We understood that the majority of children in the area would attend the large Community College and that this may be one of the preferences for many parents. We understood that school places were then offered on the highest preference possible. Whilst catchment areas gave a solid indication of the areas served, it did not prevent parents of children living outside those areas from requesting and being allocated places at those schools because places were awarded depending on the admissions policies of those schools. It was therefore possible that places would be awarded to pupils living in Ixworth and Thurston despite not living in the catchment areas of the multiple secondary schools in the area. We considered that the claim over simplified the actual situation with regard to the allocation of secondary school places that would be available to children in the Ixworth and Thurston areas in 2014 and therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation).
The ad should not appear again in its current form.