‘I don’t know what to do’ – Mother can’t find school for son because of lack of places

A mother says her son has been left with nowhere to go because of a shortage of secondary school places in Redcar and Cleveland.

Emma Jennings’ son Kian Allport is currently being homeschooled after she opted to remove him from Laurence Jackson school in Guisborough because of an alleged bullying issue.

She subsequently discovered there were no waiting lists for a place in any of the borough’s schools with the exception of Huntcliff in Saltburn, just under ten miles away.

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The family live in Normanby and Mrs Jennings says Huntcliff, which on public transport would involve a journey time of more than an hour and 20 minutes, is too far to travel.

Emma Jennings’ son Kian Allport is currently being homeschooled

Redcar and Cleveland Council, as the local education authority, said it was working to ensure there were sufficient school places borough wide and support was available for parents trying to switch mid-term from its school admissions team.

Mrs Jennings, an accounts clerk, said her 11-year-old son had been homeschooled since November, and although he remained on Laurence Jackson’s books she did not wish him to go back.

She said: “He had some trouble with other kids in the school three times, so I took him out and said I’d wait for a transfer. I was then told there are no waiting lists for any secondary school and I had to just keep applying as much as I wanted to see if I can get him a place.

“Where he needs to be is his local school, Outwood Normanby, which would be manageable to get to, but there are no places. From what I’ve been told everywhere is full except Huntcliff in Saltburn, which is too far to travel.

Emma Jennings removed her son Kian Allport from his school due to an alleged bullying issue

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“I don’t know what to do next, we can’t send him to Saltburn and he can’t homeschool for another five years.”

Referring to Kian’s homeschooling, she said she had received little support.

“I know another parent in a similar situation who has had one-email since September just to say ‘How is it going?’ which is no help at all,” she said. “Obviously I’m worried that Kian is missing out.”

She has been unable to find another school for him to go to

The issue of insufficient secondary school places was raised last year at a full meeting of the council by Normanby ward member Councillor Chris Gallacher.

He said it was a “major concern” and a “pressing problem” and also referenced a number of new housing developments that were in the planning.

The council’s cabinet member for children, Alison Barnes described 2022 as a “bulge” year with projected figures last October showing there was a shortfall of 71 secondary school places for year six pupils due to start school in September this year.

In her answer to Coun Gallacher she said projections showed there was pressure in the west of the borough.

She said the council was in discussion with several schools aimed at having them increase their intake.

Mrs Jennings suggested the local authority should be looking at building a new school, but for the moment had been told they were “squeezing more kids in where they can” in September for the new academic year.

She said: “The developers are building all these houses – we ourselves have moved into a new build at Flatts Lane – but there aren’t sufficient schools for the kids who are moving to the area.

“There are more houses being built near Tesco on the Trunk Road [in Eston] and South Bank so they are going to have to build a new school.”

Education provision can be funded as part of so-called section 106 agreements between developers and local planning authorities, which are intended to reduce the impact on local communities caused by house building.

But they can be contentious and be re-negotiated by developers in some instances.

A spokesman for Redcar and Cleveland Council said: “Every one of our children deserve the best possible education and the council works with all schools in the borough, neighbouring authorities and the Government to ensure that enough places are available borough wide.

“However, although there are enough places available borough-wide, some popular schools may be oversubscribed, especially in years where more children than is typical are entering a school year.

“In the main schools run their own admissions policies, but parents and guardians trying to switch schools mid-year should contact the council’s admissions team.

“If needed the school choice adviser will offer independent and impartial advice and guidance on the process of admissions and appeals as a new school is found.”

He added: “The council will continue to work with neighbouring authorities, especially Middlesbrough Council as many pupils from both boroughs cross ‘borders’ to school, to ensure there are enough places available and to help with planning.

“There is no need for a new school in Redcar and Cleveland at this time. However, the situation is continually assessed and the authority will continue to advise schools and offer guidance on the potential need for expansion in the coming years.”

Two years ago Middlesbrough Council encountered a problem when parents of 108 children were left without a secondary school for the September of that year, having been told they were completely full as a result of “unprecedented demand”.

A further 122 places were subsequently identified as a result of a review of school buildings and staffing structures in order to meet the needs of those pupils who were not initially offered a place.

The council had received 61 more applications for school places in the 2019/20 academic year than anticipated.

More than half of those – 36 – were international new arrivals – effectively more than one extra school class.

The supply of school places in the town has since been boosted with the opening of a brand new school for 11 to 16 year olds, Outwood Academy Riverside, which is currently in a temporary building before moving to a permanent location in Middlehaven.