Parents fear crisis over places could be repeated

PARENTS who live in a part of a Yorkshire city affected by a “primary school places blackhole” this summer say they fear a repeat of the situation next year unless expansion plans are announced soon.

The places row this year led to a high profile campaign with parents and their children protesting outside Civic Hall. Photo James Hardisty
The places row this year led to a high profile campaign with parents and their children protesting outside Civic Hall. Photo James Hardisty

Ninety extra places were found after National Offer Day this year by three primary schools in North Leeds after parents staged a high profile campaign.

The extra bluge classes were created at Highfield and Wigton Moor primaries and Leeds City Council was also able to get Gledhow Primary to agree to bring forward its expansion plans.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

This was hailed as a victory for the Fair Access Group who had claimed there were around 80 families in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley who had no chance of being able to get into a local school.

Now some of the parents involved are looking at setting up their own free school which could open in 2017.

However the campaign group also has parents whose children are due to start primary school in 2016.

Last week they held talks with Leeds City Council bosses about school places in North Leeds.

The authority has previously said that it is already planning for next year.

However parent Ian Dowd has voiced concerns after the meeting.

He said: “The main issue is our concern about the lack of any specificity or a definitem timescale. We have had some reassuring words but there does not seem to be a plan in place yet and the process for beginning to choose our next primary school will start for us soon.

In a letter to the council Mr Dowd said: “There is a belief that the 2015 bulge classes were a direct result of the media coverage, wider awareness of the problem and pressure from Central Government and parents

The only thing that will fix this is to increase the number of primary school places available in North Leeds so that parents are given the choices they are entitled to for their children. The alternative is that we give up on North Leeds and the Roundhay area, allowing the black hole to continue and the area to be labelled a bad one for schools and so also bad for children and families.”

He added: “As you can image some parents also talk of moving house or whether they can afford to send children to private school, as some parents considered this year. Though few can afford or really have the desire for either option.

iven the desire for the problem to be resolved there is a swell of opinion amongst parents to follow the example set by Lucy Clement and the Fair Access Group in 2015 in the belief that it works and can certainly do no harm.

“This is fuelled by a sense that for 2016, rather than being proactive, Leeds City Council will wait to see what happens with the admissions process – then add places, or not, based on the size of the problem and extent of external pressure. Saying that it’s a lower birth rate year and the Gledhow places should help gives little comfort and adds to the sense of pessimism.

We’d like to be able to help allay parents’ concerns but it is difficult to do so with words alone.”