PARENTS have lambasted a ‘farcical’ postcode lottery that has seen some Oxford pupils land school places in Witney and Abingdon.

While most Oxfordshire children have gained their first-choice secondary school for September, some families were ‘shocked’ to learn they had been allocated schools more than a dozen miles outside of the city.

On Friday Oxfordshire County Council wrote to the bumper cohort of 7,300 applicants, revealing which school they had been allocated a place at.

Pupils could list up to three preferences, and 94 per cent were awarded a place at one of these, despite extra pressure caused by a rise in applications.

However, more than 400 children did not gain a place at one of their chosen schools.

Once again Marston, which has previously been described a ‘black hole’ for secondary school placement, appears to be among the worst-hit areas.

One Marston dad in North Way said his daughter, who applied for The Cherwell School in Summertown as her sole choice, had been allocated a place at Wood Green School in Witney.

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He said: “How can the council think that’s acceptable? It’s the most ridiculous decision ever - it’s farcical.

“Not getting a [preferred] place is one thing, being offered something so far away is nonsense.”

The 49-year-old said many parents of pupils at New Marston Primary School, which his daughter attends, had expressed similar concerns about being placed in neighbouring towns.

He added: “It feels a bit like we are living in no man’s land.”

Marston’s new Swan School is due to open in September in temporary accommodation, and successful applicants were given both a Swan place and a back-up place elsewhere, and advised to accept both for now.

This is because the Government has not yet signed off on the academy’s funding agreement, meaning there is still a chance the 1,260-school could be delayed further, even though construction has started.

Leanne Douglas, who also lives in North Way, said her daughter got offered a place at The Henry Box School in Witney as well as a place at The Swan School.

The mum-of-three said she still felt ‘uncertain’ if the Swan School will open in time, and that to allocate a back-up so far away was ‘taking the mick.’

The Swan School and Henry Box were also the offers given to the son of Lisa Wills, who also lives in North Way.

She said: “Witney is a long way for him to go - he would be devastated.

“How am I going to get him there for 9am? It’s two buses away.”

The Oxford Times:

Henry Box

Another Marston mum, who asked not to be named, said her daughter had been allocated places at The Swan School and at Fitzharrys School in Abingdon.

The mother, who asked not to be named, said: “I was totally shocked - I knew there was a possibility we wouldn’t get into Cherwell or Cheney, but at least I thought it would be a school in Oxford or within a commutable distance.

“It’s completely ridiculous and terribly upsetting.”

She said the funding situation with the Swan School was ‘unsettling’ and the first year could be ‘stressful’ for pupils, as they will be based in cabins at The Cherwell School for at least a year before the permanent site in Marston Ferry Road opens.

ALSO READ: Swan School oversubscribed as temporary base approved

Another Marston parent, who also asked to be kept anonymous, said her son was given a place at the Swan and a back-up at Larkmead School in Abingdon.

The Oxford University employee said: “My initial feeling was one of fury. It’s just crazy.

“I feel like these poor kids have been failed. They are already stressed with their SATs and going up to secondary school.

“The Swan School isn’t guaranteed and it wasn’t our first choice because it’s not an established school, and it could fall through.

“It makes me nervous and cross.”

One Marston dad, whose daughter also gained a place at an Abingdon school, branded the situation a 'real mess.'

He said: "Even with offers from Swan there is still huge uncertainty - people simply do not know what to believe or who to trust.

"The council can hope for good news but that’s not helping the poor parents and their children come to terms with a wholly inadequate solution to the problem of not enough places in 2019, which has been anticipated for years.

"The county's numbers may be something for some people to rejoice in, but for others, and 400 is no small number, it’s only the beginning of a nightmare summer."

County councillor and education expert John Howson, who has previously criticised the government for the delay in delivering the Swan School, said the situation was a 'shambles.'

The Oxford Times:

John Howson. Pic: Richard Cave

He said: "The Government must confirm that the Swan School will open this September and sign the funding agreement.

"Pupils and their parents should not have to endure this degree of anxiety due to civil servant bungling."

An Oxfordshire County Council spokesman stressed that there had been 'exceptionally high demand' for places this year, compounded by the Swan School delay.

He added: "Every application has been rigorously considered in light of published admissions criteria for each of the secondary schools prior to offers being made."

The council was unable to confirm how many Oxford pupils had been allocated a place outside of the city.

The Government is not expected to sign off on the Swan School deal until late March or early April at the earliest.

Existing schools, which have agreed to take on extra pupils this year in case the Swan falls through, will hold a total of 243 places until confirmation is delivered and families make their final choice.

Applicants have until March 21 to accept or refuse places, and a second lot of offers will be issued on May 8.

The council's advice to parents

Even if they are unhappy with their offer they are advised to accept it in the first instance so they definitely have a place for their child in September. At the same time they will be advised in their letters that they have the option to add the child’s name to a continued interest list for their preferred school, add further preferences to their application and/or appeal against the decision. Applicants should read the advice in their offer letter(s) as it will offer the best chance of securing their preferred outcome."