Parents call for changes to school catchment areasBy Laura Herbert
October 11, 2012
Parents are calling for the town’s catchment areas to be changed so more children can secure a place at their closest school.
Wokingham Borough Council officers are looking at ways to deal with an increase in demand for primary school places and have pledged to create 90 additional places for the September 2013/14 intake.
Hilary Grealis’ youngest son will start school in September 2014, but she is worried he won’t get a place at Wescott Infant, his catchment school.
She said: “Based on this year’s admission statistics, he would not have been allocated a place at the school due to over demand.
“Places for non-sibling catchment children at the school were offered on radial distance and we are deemed to live not close enough.
“The last of the 56 places was offered to a child living 1.2 miles away.
“He would not have been offered a place in at least three of the other closest schools, as they did not take children who do not live in catchment.
“So, we find ourselves in this ‘no man’s’ land’ of not living close enough to our catchment school and not being able to get a place at the other closest schools as we are not in catchment.
“Our son would have been offered a place at a school that would require us to drive past his catchment school.”
A series of drop-ins with parents have been taking place around the borough and a number of families have raised issues about the school criteria, including the siblings rule, with some furious their children have not been placed in the same schools.
Mrs Grealis, of Pinecroft Road, added: “If the council change the Primary School Admission Code to prioritise ‘out-of-catchment siblings’ above ‘in-catchment non-sibling’ children we strongly believe this would have a negative impact on our son.
“The code has always been very clear, that if a parent chooses an out-of-catchment school, this does not guarantee siblings will be allocated places.
“Parents made that choice and knowingly took a risk.”
Another mum, who wished to remain anonymous and is unable to drive, is home schooling her four-year-old daughter, who failed to get a place at her catchment school, The Hawthorns.
She said: “Our next closest school is a 45-minute walk away.
“Hawthorns has always taken catchment children and there was no reason to think this year was going to be any different.
“A four-year-old should be able to walk to school in a town like Wokingham where there are so many good schools.
“The council has to get the catchments right.”
The council plans to adopt a Primary Education Strategy next month, which will set out how it will secure additional primary school places in the borough and meet rising pupil numbers.
Councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for children’s services, said: “We know many parents are very concerned and we continue to work closely with community representatives and schools to find a way forward.
“Further options will be discussed and developed in partnership with communities and schools this autumn.
“These could include changes to school catchment areas to create new opportunities.”