A SCHOOL serving the West End of Darlington is seeking to amend its catchment area to include Blackwell.

The Federation of Abbey Schools, on Cleveland Terrace, has launched an eight-week consultation into the proposed change to its admission policy.

If approved, it would see children in Blackwell who would otherwise attend Skerne Park Academy become eligible for a place at Abbey for the start of the 2015 academic year.

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A report prepared as part of the consultation process says that historically Blackwell families have been disadvantaged when school places have been allocated on the distance between the home and school.

Headteacher, Elaine McCue, said the idea was first mooted by Darlington Borough Council before the school became an academy.

She said that the proposed admission area does not include land in Blackwell earmarked for development, nor is the amendment being considered because Polam Hall has applied to become a free school in 2015 which could affect Abbey’s intake.

Mrs McCue explained: “It is purely because we feel as professionals in education that these families (in Blackwell) are disadvantaged when going for school places.

“It is purely on that reason alone that the academy trust, the governors, are seeking opinions and thoughts about the proposal.”

Kate Chisholm, headteacher of Skerne Park Academy which serves Blackwell, said she was unaware of the proposal until recently.

She added: “That being said, as a big advocate for ‘Schools at One Darlington’ I feel that any efforts to increase parental choice for pupil placement can only enhance the already outstanding provision that we as an authority provide for our children. “I wish Abbey every luck with their consultation.”

Cyndi Hughes, Darlington Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, and Park East ward councillor, said: "I have discussed the consultation proposal with council officers and with a representative of the Federation of Abbey Schools and am satisfied that the impact of the possible changes will have a minimal effect on families living outside the Blackwell area.

“I have further been assured that the numbers who would be gaining preference are very small and that no new proposed housing areas are included in the plan.

“I must stress, however, that even if this were not the case, the proposal is a school one and not one within the remit or control of the Local Authority.”

The consultation closes on February 7 and information can be found at abbeyfed.darlington.sch.uk