Mum’s fury at school admissions system

Harvey, 4, denied a place at the school he has attended nursery at since he was a baby.

A BARNSTAPLE mum has criticised an ‘old fashioned’ school admissions system that has left her fighting to get her son a place at the school he has attended since he was a baby.

Devastated Lyndsey Ley received an email indicating that four-year-old son Harvey must switch schools when he makes the step-up from nursery in September.

The youngster has been attending playgroup and nursery based at Newport Community School Primary Academy since he was nine months old but has been offered a place at Forches Cross Community Primary School instead.

Lyndsey, who lives in Whiddon Valley, said she received the email from Devon County Council’s School Admission Team on Friday morning, one of thousands sent to anxious parents around the county indicating their children’s fate.

She told the Gazette: “Thousands of parents got the results on Friday but unfortunately I am one of those outraged by the system in which a committee chooses which school your child goes too.

“To wake up to the devastating news that Harvey hasn’t been given a place to the only school we have put his name down for is absolutely destroying.”

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Although outside the catchment area, the school in Newport is actually closer by road to Lyndsey’s home in Woolbarn Lawn than the alternative in Forches.

Harvey’s father Wayne Ley lives in Newport, as do both sets of grandparents.

“Harvey spends equal time with his mum and his dad but I don’t think they took that into account,” said hotel receptionist Lyndsey, 26.

“I work during the day until 6pm so Harvey’s dad and my mum will be the ones picking him up from school most of the time,” she added.

“I feel that the way the places are allocated is very old fashioned as they do not look at each child’s case more thoroughly.”

Lyndsey, who went to Newport school herself as a youngster, said that Harvey was progressing well academically but did not cope very well with change.

She said she was concerned at the impact of him moving to the other side of the same school, yet alone to a new school, might have.

“We were even invited to a meeting at Newport last month to discuss the extra support that would be needed to help him make the transition from nursery to reception.

“He’s a very clever boy but he just doesn’t like change. I’m really worried and scared about the effect that the change in environment will have on his academic development.

“I don’t think he’ll mind not seeing his friends as much but it’s the fact that he’s so settled.”

Lyndsey said Harvey’s dad Wayne, 33, had telephoned the county council’s admissions helpline to seek further advice.

She said: “After a lengthy conversation, they informed us that Wayne’s address was not taken into account, and the fact that Harvey has been to the nursery since the age of nine months had been dismissed.

“It angers me that others get given places when siblings already attend and are further out of the catchment area then us.

“Also it seems unfair that places are given to children when their parents haven’t even bothered to enrol them in the nursery, so they haven’t even set foot in the school.

“I don’t blame the school – they have to stick to the guidelines – but the system has let us down, along with many other parents.

“We are still awaiting an official letter in the post put are planning to lodge an appeal by the cut-off date of May 7.”

A spokesperson for Devon County Council said the admissions department had processed 7,710 applications this year and hoped to better last year’s results, which saw 95 per cent of parents gain their first choice of school.

He said: “Newport is an academy school which has asked us to manage its admissions which we do to the same strict criteria applied to all county schools.

“The pre-school on the Newport site is independent of the school. There were more applications than places at Newport this year.

“We offered 60 places and there are 26 names on a waiting list. Harvey lives outside the designated area for Newport and was offered a place at his nearest school with places available.

“We do have a full appeals process which his family can now make use of.”

Newport head teacher Andy Cotton said: “In this case we know the family very well and it is very, very unfortunate that this has occurred.

“But the circumstances this year are that we are over-subscribed many times for places within our reception classes.

“As a school we are very conscious that at this time of year not in all cases do parents get their first choice of school and we would like to pass on our good wishes to the family.”

Mr Cotton said demand for places at Newport, which became an academy school last year, had risen during the last four-to-five years and while this was a positive thing for the school, it had inevitably caused disappointment for some parents.

He added that the school had no say on its own admissions, despite its status as an academy.

“This is a popular misconception as we have no jurisdiction here. As an academy school we have to follow the locally agreed admissions policy.”

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