A controversial system for allocating secondary school places by catchment areas and a lottery will be reviewed by a government official.

A school adjudicator has been appointed to scrutinise the system due to be introduced in Brighton and Hove in September 2008.

If Richard Lindley, the appointed official, is unhappy with any aspect of the scheme he can order changes to be made.

He has the authority to make adjustments to any part of the plan, right down to the boundaries of the six catchment areas Brighton and Hove City Council has drawn up for its eight schools.

Mr Lindley also has the power, if he considers it necessary, to completely halt the system and devise a new version of his own.

He could alternatively give the council plan his backing and allow it to proceed as expected.

The official was asked to review the system by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator following a series of written objections from parents.

He will hold a public meeting at City College Brighton and Hove, in Pelham Street, Brighton, on Tuesday, May 15, at 5pm, where views on the scheme can be presented to him.

The new system divided opinion in Brighton and Hove and attracted national media debate when it was agreed in February.

It was devised by the council to address issues created by the old walking-distance based scheme which gave priority to children living closest to oversubscribed schools.

As a result it was impossible for some families living further away to get their children into their nearest schools. Their children were instead "directed" by the council to lower-achieving schools often far from their homes.

The new system uses catchment areas to ensure children can get into at least one of their nearest schools and a lottery as a final decider if there is still oversubscription.

Many parents are angry they will no longer be able to get their children into the schools they want and say the council has taken away their right to choice. Others have celebrated the change which has ended years of frustration for them.

Mark Bannister, from campaign group School 4 Communities, is one of the opponents of the scheme who lodged an objection with the adjudicator. Several members of the group will speak at the public meeting.

Mr Bannister said: "We don't think this system complies with the government's admissions code. Hopefully the adjudicator will see that."

Opponents have called for the walking-distance system to be maintained.

Supporters of the scheme have also written to Mr Lindley explaining why they consider the changes vital and will speak at the meeting.

Paul Grivell, a parent member of the working group which devised the plan, said: "Even if it is not perfect, what we have now is considerably better than the old system."

David Hawker, the council's director of education, is expected to give a 20 minute presentation at the meeting.

He said: "As far as we can tell, we have come up with the best fit in the light of the code of practice and the demography of the city."

Mr Hawker confirmed he planned to review the catchment areas this Autumn so that data from the next year group to apply could be considered.

Written comments can be sent to Lisa Short at Office of the School Adjudicator, Ground Floor, Mowden Hall, Darlington, DL3 9BG, until a deadline on Tuesday, May 22.

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