Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Why haven’t schools got a place for my daughter?

A MOTHER has criticised the education system after she was unable to get a primary school place for her 10-year-old daughter in Henley.

Lucy Irvine moved to the town with her two children earlier this month from Beaconsfield and had hoped to enrol them both at Trinity Primary School for the remainder of the academic year.

But while her five-year-old daughter was allocated a place to start on Monday, the older girl was unable to be accommodated by any of the town’s four state schools.

Now she faces missing out on the final term of her primary education before starting secondary school at Gillotts School in September.

Ms Irvine, a curator and artist, applied for a school place for her elder daughter four times without success.

She was forced to take her to her old school in Beaconsfield to sit her key stage two SATs exams.

Ms Irvine, who has rented a property in Church Street, which she chose as it is just a minute’s walk from Trinity school, said: “I know they were hesitant about her taking her SATs so I applied again after the SATs when there was no academic pressure. It’s just 25 days in a chair.

“My five-year-old starts on Monday. She got into Trinity and my 10-year-old will go to Gillotts in September but in the interim it’s quite a challenge.

“I don’t have a partner, I’m not in a position to leave my daughter anywhere and I can’t home-school her.”

Ms Irvine has been in contact with the head of admissions at Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, as well as the headteachers of the primary schools.

She said: “They mostly seemed positive about both my children having places. I spoke to the head of admissions and he said there’s a child in year six who has been out of school since February.

“I’ve put in an appeal but the process is so long I know it won’t go through in time. I’ve also written to John Howell. The head of admissions says he’s banging his head against a brick wall and no primary school will take a child at this stage.”

Ms Irvine says she believes a lack of school funding is to blame for her predicament, as the schools don’t receive any more government payments until October.

She said: “There’s no funding but the council will pay for a taxi, which is ridiculous. Why can’t they just give it to the school? They have their own protocol but it’s a very archaic system.”

Ms Irvine says she is now worried about her daughter’s development and wants her to make friends ahead of starting at Gillotts.

She said: “She’s moving to a new town and a new school and the whole point of me moving and disrupting them was so she can integrate into the new town and meet new people before going to secondary school.

“She’s only 10 and I want her to meet people and integrate into her new life here but it has backfired badly. I’m very disappointed that nothing can be done and they can’t think of a child’s welfare before funding.”

Ms Irvine is exploring schools in the villages outside Henley but says she is disappointed that nothing can be found in the town.

She said: “It’s a new lifestyle and walking to school was the thing to do. Going elsewhere defeats the object.

“It’s difficult because you are trying to make a life in the town and you want your children’s lives to be in that town. I’ve been offered no school for her at all.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “This very much remains an active application and the council is committed to finding a place for this child as near as possible to Henley.

“The family do have the options of joining waiting lists for individual schools and appealing.

“In 2019, 88 per cent of parents and pupils applying for secondary school got their first choice and 93 per cent applying to primary schools got their first choice. Oxfordshire is ahead of national averages.”

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