Leeds parents celebrate school places campaign victory

PARENTS who have been campaigning for the past six weeks about a school places blackhole in North Leeds have told of their delight after securing places at primaries they had originally chosen.

Lucy Clement, Fair Access campaigner celebrating with daughter Daisy outside Wigton Moor Primary School.  Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Lucy Clement, Fair Access campaigner celebrating with daughter Daisy outside Wigton Moor Primary School. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Last week Leeds City Council announced 60 extra places were being created at Wigton Moor and Highfield after scores of parents had claimed they had been given no chance of getting their children into a local school.

The Fair Access campaign group had warned around 80 children in parts of Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley had not been given a place at any of their parents’ preferences - despite opting to go to local schools.

They said that as a result they were facing journeys of several miles to schools they did not choose. In some cases parents were allocated places at a Sikh ethos free school in Chapeltown because it was set to move to Alwoodley.

The campaign was launched after school places were allocated last month and created an impact during the General Election with parents able to put questions to both Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne on visits to Leeds, who vowed to look into their situation.

Since National Offer Day in mid April Leeds Council has secured 90 more primary places in the North of the City.

Last week Wigton Moor and Highfield Primary Schools agreed to take on another extra reception class and a week earlier Gledhow Primary had done the same. The school had been due to expand to a three form entry in 2016 but agreed to bring this forward.

As result of the new places created, the vast majority of parents in the group discovered yesterday that they had now got places for their children at schools they originally chose.

Campaigner Lucy Clement, whose daughter Daisy is now going to Wigton Moor said: “After what we have been through I just feel so grateful that she will be going to a local school that we can walk to.

“It was actually our fifth choice but I am delighted.”

In a letter thanking Leeds City Councilm councillors and other politicians for their support she said: “We have proved we are an amazing community and it is so important that we work together to make sure this never happens again.

“I now consider myself and Daisy to be very lucky as we have made so many friends along this journey, our children may well be the happiest four -year olds in September going to school with the little buddies they would never have made before hand without this.”

Oliver Thorne, whose daughter is now heading to Highfield Primary said; “We are delighted. It is six weeks exactly to the day when we received emails at 1am and were left coming to terms with what had happened. It seems like so much longer. Its remarkable how the council has been able to pull out all the stops to find these places but the question still has to be asked: ‘What did they do about this before National Offer Day.”

The campaign group is now focused on ensuring parents of future cohorts in North Leeds do not find themselves in the same situation next year and beyond.

Last week Leeds Council’s leader Coun Judith Blake said the council had been committed to working with local schools to find a solution and thanked the communities at Wigton Moor, Highfield and Roundhay for agreeing to help tackle the problem.

She also dismissed the suggestion that extra places had been found as a result of external pressure from central Government on the council.

The Department for Education had said that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan wanted to have talks with the council about how it had allocated funding provided to deliver extra school places, in light of the parents’ campaign.

However Coun Blake said that she would welcome the chance to hold such talks and had been asking for them for several months to highlight the impact Government funding and policy was having on school places planning in Leeds.