Parents in Leeds warn they are in a “school places blackhole”

PARENTS in North Leeds claim they are living in a school places “blackhole” after at least 28 children in their neighbourhoods were not allocated any of their preferences despite all applying to their nearest schools.

Parents from the Roundhay area claim they are living in a school place blackhole
Parents from the Roundhay area claim they are living in a school place blackhole

The majority of these families live in the Roundhay area who choose Talbot and Highfield Primary as their first choice. Others living in Moortown and Alwoodley are also said to have missed out.

Coun Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for education said the authority was now in talks with local schools to look for help in tackling this year’s pressure for places in the area. Last week 550 parents across Leeds - five per cent of those who applied - were told they had not been given a place at any of their chosen schools by the council.

The authority said that of these 427 had not followed the advice of choosing their nearest school. However a group of parents have joined forces after choosing their nearest schools and yet still being deprived any of their preferred places.

They are campaigning for places to be found for them. Parent Ffion Wells said: “No children in our areas stood any chance of being allocated one of their preferred local schools. If you plot previous cut off maps for local schools on a map there is a “black hole” area, largely across north Roundhay. We very much hope the council will find a solution that means all our children can be placed in appropriate schools within our local community. Should this not be possible we all plan to appeal our allocations.”

She said the 28 families had come together through friends and word of mouth and have now set up a Facebook group.

A public meeting is taking place on Friday to discuss the issue.

Ffion Wells added: “To give you some examples, my next-door neighbours daughter has been allocated to Millfield school, 2.3 miles away in a straight line. Her nearest school is Talbot, which is less than half a mile away and there are 28 primary schools closer to her home than Millfield.

“In our own case we are the same distance from Talbot, also our nearest. We have owned our home here for nine years, and also have a younger son aged two. We have been allocated to Whinmoor St Pauls CE, which is 1.7 miles away. There are 14 primary schools nearer to our home. This means our daughters Daisy and Elsa who live a few metres a part have been placed at schools more than five miles a part, in opposite directions and in very different communities - neither of which are our own. In addition to this as working parents, having to travel these distances in busy city traffic will have a considerable impact on our daily life.”

Another parent in the group effected is Oliver Thorne.

He has written to councillors saying: “We’d never even heard of the school where our child was offered a place. Our research revealed a school in an entirely different part of Leeds, potentially half an hour away by car in morning traffic. There are twenty five primary schools closer to our house. You can imagine that bewilderment gave way quickly to genuine distress. This, so far, sounds, like an individual problem. The next day it became clear that we were not alone in this situation. The problem that we have identified is this; there is an entire area in the Roundhay and Moortown part of Leeds where at least fifteen families are in the same position. Alwoodley also seems to be affected. There are no families in our area that were allocated to a school that they had applied to. The effect of this is that not only are children living in this area denied access to their local schools but also they are allocated to the next school place that no one else wanted. In the current climate of general pressure on places these schools are intrinsically likely to be weaker, and the results bear that out. Put another way, our children are given the leftovers, after the others have had their pick.

“The council announced that of 9854 applications only 550 had not been given a place at a school on their list and of those 427 had not followed the advice to include their closest school. It follows that we have, in a few days, identified a significant proportion of the remaining 123 in one area that is clearly a “black hole” for admissions.”

Next year Gledhow Primary’s intake is set to be expanded to include another 30 pupils.

Coun Blake said the council was now looking to talk to schools in the area to find solutions from this September.