Council admits new school is needed after parents campaign

A YORKSHIRE council is working to avoid a repeat of a school places row next year and is talks with a primary about expanding provision in an area which parents have claimed is “a places blackhole”.

Date: 28th April 2015, Picture James Hardisty. (JH1008/62e) A group calling themselves Fair Access to Local Schools were demonstrating on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall in protest to the lack of school places in North Leeds. Pictured (foreground) Lucy Clement, spokesperson for Fair Access to Local Schools.

A leading Leeds Council official said it also would work with parents wanting to set up a free school in the Roundhay area from 2017 and accepted that another primary was needed to serve this part of the city.

There was major controversy when primary places were allocated this year with a group of parents in North Leeds claiming they had no chance of getting into local schools.

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Around 80 parents around Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley formed the Fair Access group after missing out on their preferred choices despite applying to the primaries nearest to them.

They mounted a high profile campaign and were even able to put questions to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne during the General Election campaign trail.

The council found 90 more places at three primary schools after National Offer Day which resolved the issue for the majority of parents this year.

Official Department for Education figures showed that Leeds had among the highest number of pupils (5.6 per cent) anywhere in the country who were allocated to primary schools their parents didn’t choose on National Offer Day in April.

Parent campaigners are now voicing concern over places available for children who start primary school in the Roundhay area next September. A group of are meeting with the council tomorrow.

Paul Brennan, Leeds City Council’s deputy director of children’s services said: “We are planning for 2016 across the city but North Leeds is in our minds.” He said that there had been a spike of around 300 children in the area this year which had not been expected.

But Mr Brennan said the authority would now be factoring this in for future years.

He said: “We have two bulge classes for this year and Gledhow has become a three form entry a year earlier than planned. We are in talks with a local primary about extra provision next year.”

Some of the parents involved in the Fair Access Group are now planning to set up their own free school serving the West Park area of Roundhay.

Mr Brennan said that if the plan went ahead the council would want to ensure “it did not clash” with any of its own plans.. He said there was “clearly” the demand for another school in Roundhay.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services said: “Ideologically I might not like the free school policy nationally but we want all schools in Leeds to be good schools. We would want to work with the parents to make sure it is a thriving school that meets the needs of pupils and parents in that community.”

After parents put questions to Osborne about their plight he told them that the Department for Education was to commission a study into how Leeds City Council had allocated the money given to it to provide extra school spaces.

However Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake said at the time that she strongly disputed claims that extra places had only been found because of the pressure from Government.