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Six per cent of primary pupils miss out on preferred places
HUNDREDS of children in Oxfordshire have not been allocated places at any of the primary schools they hoped to go to.
Six per cent of county youngsters – 473 children – failed to get in at one of their top three schools.
The proportion has risen from 2011/2012 when four per cent of children were affected.
Some 85 per cent, or 6,585 children, were offered their first choice this year, six per cent (473) their second preference, and 2.5 per cent (193) their third choice.
There were 7,724 applications for September 2012, an increase of more than 500 from last year.
Oxfordshire County Council schools improvement cabinet member Melinda Tilley said the increase had been predicted and feared it would continue.
She said: “We have been preparing for it but it’s not always convenient to put extra classes where everybody wants them.
“It’s been a massive rise and I believe a lot of it comes from people moving into the area.”
Hailey Munt, of Fletcher Road, Cowley, applied for her son Charlie Berry, three, to go to St Francis, St Christopher’s or Our Lady’s in Cowley but has been offered a place at Wheatley Primary – 4.2 miles away. The 20-year-old said: “I have not got the money to drive and I have another young child who is almost one.
“There is no way of me getting to Wheatley every morning.
“I was told to put down three preferences so I would at least get a chance of one, but I have not got any of them. What was the point of putting three down?”
She has appealed the decision.
Gemma Nash, mum to Cole, put down the three closest schools to her home in Hedgemead Avenue, Abingdon.
But her offer was for Thameside, four miles away.
She said: “We purposefully moved here thinking we would be in the catchment area.”
Miss Nash said if an appeal was unsuccessful, she would have no choice but to educate her son at home.
Council spokesman Gemma Watts said both Thameside and St Edmund’s primaries in Abingdon had agreed to take extra children in September to deal with the increase in demand for places.
She also pointed out that Dunmore Primary school took additional children in 2011, and Carswell would do the same in September 2013.
She described it as “unfortunate” six parents in 100 did not get one of their choices, but said this could be down to forms not being completed on time, less than three preferences being listed, or applying for out-of-catchment or over-subscribed schools.
Appeals to community schools can be made to Oxfordshire County Council by May 21 and will be heard between June 18 and July 23.
For voluntary-aided schools, families need to contact the school directly.
In neighbouring Gloucestershire, 97 per cent of the 6,560 pupils applying have been given a place at one of their four preferred schools, with 91 per cent getting their first choice.
Vicky Keyte, 24, of Cogges in Witney, applied for her son Daniel, four, to attend nearby Madley Brook School.
Daniel has cystic fibrosis and Mrs Keyte hoped he could attend a school nearer to their home, but instead he has been offered a place at Tower Hill Primary School, on the other side of town.
Mrs Keyte said: “Daniel has cystic fibrosis and the walk across town would affect him health wise. I do not drive and we would have to walk, whether it was snowing, raining or whatever.
“As soon as the weather gets cold he gets colds and coughs and if it is not treated with antibiotics it can turn into an infection, and that can mean two weeks in hospital.”
Mrs Keyte has appealed the decision.
Joanne and Martin Busson have rejected the place they were offered at Thameside Primary School for their son Alfie – and called on other parents in their position to do the same.
The school is just under three miles away, while the three schools they applied for, Thomas Reade, Dunmore and Radley are much closer, with first choice Thomas Reade just 0.6miles from their home in Radley Road.
Mr Busson said: “The authority would rather force a group of four year olds to walk for an hour to school than provide appropriate primary school places nearer to the place they live.
“We are disadvantaged just by the fact we live in an area where the schools are popular. We would have to drive past every other primary school in town to get to the one they have offered us.
“We are well within the boundaries of the school catchment area and I find it difficult to believe all places have been allocated to those closer to the school.”
The couple did not apply to nearby over-subscribed Rush Common School after being advised it would be difficult to secure a place.
Mrs Busson said: “We feel let down by the system.”