Put plan in place to avoid repeat of primary places row say Leeds Tories

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LEEDS CITY Council is facing calls to produce a plan for school places to avoid a repeat of the crisis faced by parents in the North of the city this year.

A campaign was launched when more than 80 parents in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley missed out on all their preferred local primary schools.

The Fair Access group said they were living in “a places black hole” with no chance of getting into a local school.

Talks between the council and local schools, after places had been allocated, secured an extra 90 spaces which allowed most of the parents affected to get their children into one of their chosen primary schools.

Conservative councillor Alan Lamb, the shadow education spokesman, is now putting a motion to the full council meeting next week calling for a comprehensive council response to the school places issue to avoid a repeat of the situation.

It calls for a report to be brought to the authority’s executive board reviewing the systems used to plan for school places.

It also says the council should say “what steps can be taken in the short and long terms to ensure the authority is effectively anticipating demand, so there is no repeat of this year’s problems in North Leeds”.

Coun Lamb said: “Parents and children deserve nothing less than a comprehensive response to this whole situation.

“I want to see the council take a more pragmatic approach, using the full range of tools at its disposal, rather than closing its eyes and ears to options like free schools just because there are certain reservations from some quarters. We also need to understand what went wrong this year.”

Some of the campaigners involved in the Fair Access Group are now looking at setting up their own free school in the West Park area of Roundhay for 2017.

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, the executive member for children’s services, has previously told The Yorkshire Post the council would want to work with these parents if the school went ahead.She said: “The provision of school places is a top priority for the council and we work extremely closely with all schools across the city to ensure sufficiency of places.

“This year was deeply unfortunate, as for the first time, many more children sought places in the city’s schools than were registered at birth. Nevertheless we are working to ensure that this is not repeated and that any lessons that can be learnt have been.

“We have always taken a constructive approach when dealing with this issue, however, changes to national legislation have meant that options open to us are limited.

“We are working very closely with schools to create additional places and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the schools across the city who have worked so closely with us to help alleviate the pressures we face.

“A cross-party steering group meets regularly with representatives from all parties and relevant council departments as we recognise the need for a wide reaching discussion.

“What has become clear from parents is the need for local councils to be given back the authority and money to build and open new community schools. We hope we can rely on cross-party support as we continue to lobby Government for these powers to be reinstated.”