Parents' plea to back new primary as school places struggle continues

PARENTS have warned a critical shortage of classroom places has left pupils unable to get into their first choice primary schools in the wake of emergency plans which were enforced in an 11th hour bid to tackle the education crisis in Yorkshire's biggest city.

Lucy Clement and the Fair Access Group demonstrating on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall in 2015 protest to the lack of school places in North Leeds.
Lucy Clement and the Fair Access Group demonstrating on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall in 2015 protest to the lack of school places in North Leeds.

Campaigners who are pressing to address the “black hole” of primary places in North Leeds have now urged other families to back a consultation for a new free school to provide a long-term solution to the problems which first emerged two years ago.

Yesterday, on what is known as national offer day, figures revealed that 1,225 families in the city had missed out on their first option and 284 pupils did not get into any of their five preferences.

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It emerged that many parents in North Leeds, where an additional 90 ‘bulge’ places have been created at two primary schools, faced disappointment despite efforts to solve the ongoing crisis.

Lucy Clement, who is a member of the Fair Access campaign group, said the “sibling impact” from the bulge classes of 2015 was significant this year. The current admissions system in Leeds gives priority to siblings however far away from the school they live, which means some families with their oldest or only child about to start school have missed out on a place in their local area as a result.

Mrs Clement said: “This is particularly the case in the Wigton Moor and Highfield catchment area. Our children are now impacting on these areas.

“These parents might not be so aware of what’s going on, so for them so it will be a big shock as they are being allocated schools up to two miles away.”

Mrs Clement argued that this provided further proof there was a critical need for a new primary. A free school has been approved for the area, but is yet to be built due to problems finding a suitable site.

She said: “We cannot continue to bulge at local primary schools at the expense of outdoor playing space and overcrowding indoor communal areas. This isn’t good for any children, whether they get their first choice, or end up with something they haven’t preferenced. In addition to this, bulges and permanent expansions like at Gledhow, are expensive and it would be a far more efficient use of public money to build a new school.”

Earlier this month Leeds City Council launched a consultation on four site options for the proposed 420-pupil Roundhay Park Primary. Mrs Clement said: “I want people to get behind the consultation and respond. The golf course driving range is the only site within the black hole and is best placed to solve the shortage of places in Roundhay.”

Yesterday The Yorkshire Post revealed the number of children getting into their first choice of primary school has increased in the majority of the region. Extra demand for primary places has been rising in recent years due to an unprecedented baby boom. As a result, local authorities have been taking measures to ease the pressure, including boosting admission numbers, and last week the Government announced that 4,000 new school places will be created in Yorkshire following the largest wave of free school approvals this Parliament.

Almost nine out of 10 families in the Bradford district have been allocated their first-choice school this year. Since 2010 the city council has created 8,500 new primary school places to help meet demand.