UK: Many Primary School Children Denied School Choices

Primary school reception classes start in the next few weeks, but thousands of children in the UK will not be attending the schools that their parents wanted them to attend.

A shortage of school places, caused by a baby boom and mass immigration, means four and five year olds across the country have been rejected from all the schools to which their parents applied.
In hundreds of cases, families are still waiting for a school to be found.

Julie Henry, Marie-Claire Chappet and Libby Howell from the Telegraph report that many more young students have been offered last minute places at primaries they did not even apply to as local councils struggle to cope with their legal duty to find pupils a primary school place despite massive oversubscription at some schools.

An analysis by the Sunday Telegraph has revealed that nearly 10,000 primary age children in 46 local authorities have failed to be offered places at any of the up to six choices of schools their parents can make. If this situation is replicated across all 150 authorities in England the figure would be higher than 22,000.

Although the problem is severe in London, with over six thousand children not getting into any of their choices across 33 boroughs, the problem isn’t restricted to the UK’s largest city. Kent and Hertfordshire both have nearly 1,000 children who weren’t offered any of the preferences chosen by their parents.

The parents — and their children — who miss out on the schools they wanted can be allocated empty places anywhere. These leftover places are obviously the least desirable and tend to be either in poorly performing schools or in isolated neighborhoods that force lengthy traveling times to get the children to and from school.

While many parents are reluctantly accepting the last minute offers from the council, some are rejecting them. In Nottinghamshire there are 25 children still without a school place as August draws to a close. In Leicestershire, the number is 79.

Tamzin Dear is one of the children offered a last minute place that involved a 17 mile round trip each day. Her parents Simone Garland and Martyn Dear have decided to spend £7,000 a year to send Tamzin to a private school rather than accept what they consider an impossible daily journey.

Simone Garland said:

“We have been left angry and frustrated. The process is highly unfair and it is absolutely impossible to talk to anybody at the council about it.

“We both work full-time and we could not feasibly have taken Tamzin to the school we were offered and get to work on time. We are now having to make serious cut backs to pay for a place at independent school.”

Projected birth rates are still on the rise in the UK and there has been no substantial effort to tackle immigration issues, so the boom in the number of primary children, anticipated years ago and essentially ignored, is set to continue. 455,000 extra primary places will be needed in England alone in the next three years.

08 28, 2012
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