Circle Case study

Newham Council

CACI help Newham Council gain confidence in their admissions system

The challenge

Newham Council serves a population of 310,000 and has one of the largest cohorts of pupils in London. It processes in excess of 5,000 reception applications and around 4,000, Year 7 applications every autumn. In addition, it must allocate school places in response to 7,000-8,000 in-year applications per annum.

The council had an existing geographic information system (GIS) that was used to calculate home to school distances to help allocate school places according to strict over-subscription criteria, including which catchment area and parish children live in. This system was very cumbersome and did little to speed up what was a time consuming, complex and stressful task for the council’s school admissions team.

Checking the distance measurements was a rigorous task and an inefficient use of team leader’s time. Newham Council wanted to focus on the family and avoid mistakes so every child received the correct school offer. If, for example, home-to-school distances were inaccurately calculated, it could lead to an increase in appeals, substantial administrative and legal costs, damaging negative publicity and a loss of trust in the community.

While council staff found the demands of the admissions process complex, so too did parents, carers and guardians. Many families found it hard to understand how places were allocated, and high volumes of calls were made to the council’s call centre every year requesting information on home-to-school distances and the precise catchment boundaries. These telephone enquiries were costly for the council, weren’t always helpful for parents, carers and guardians, and the information between the front and the back end systems did not always match.

The solution

Newham Council implemented a two-fold approach, in partnership with CACI they developed a new distance measuring system which rapidly calculates accurate catchment and distance information for each pupil and their school preference. It also integrates with the council’s Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG) to give accurate, up-to-date address information.

CACI and Newham Council also worked alongside Esri UK to implement a geographic information system (GIS), named School Locator app, which integrates with CACI’s admissions system. The app acts as a public-facing web portal, where parents, carers and guardians can see catchment areas, Catholic parishes, closest schools, interactive maps and the all-important home-to-school distances tie-breakers (both shortest walking and straight line), most of which would previously have been impossible for the public to determine without contacting the council by telephone.

The results

The implementation of CACI’s more accurate admissions system and integrated School Locator app, enables the council’s school admissions team to work more productively, processing applications more quickly and efficiently. Significantly, this solution has given Newham Council true confidence in the rigour of its school admissions process and reduced risk. Newham Council’s admissions decisions are now based on even more accurate location information and the same criteria are applied consistently to all applications.

The greatest benefit, for Tracy Jones, Head of Pupil Services at Newham and her team, is the clarity the solution delivers for residents. Schools and families can now simply visit a web portal to see exactly which catchment area pupils live in, identify their nearest schools and calculate distances. There is now complete transparency between the information the council and the parents sees, resulting in complete openness about school admissions decisions.

Newham Council typically handles more than 1,500 school admission appeals a year, at a cost of around £50 each. If the recent implementation of CACI’s admissions system and Esri’s School Locator App were to decrease this figure by just 20 per cent, it would save Newham Council £15,000 a year. By reducing the odds of appeals progressing to judicial review, the new system could potentially save the council many more tens of thousands of pounds.