Sedgemoor mums miss out on first choice primary schools

Emma Barry with daughter Sophie Barry, three, who has missed out on her first choice primary school. Photo: Jeff Searle

Emma Barry with daughter Sophie Barry, three, who has missed out on her first choice primary school. Photo: Jeff Searle

First published in News
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Bridgwater Mercury: Photograph of the Author by

CHILDREN in Sedgemoor have joined hundreds across Somerset who have missed out on their first choice primary school.

Admission figures show around 500 youngsters will not be attending their parents’ preferred choice school.

Somerset County Council said 91.45% of 5,755 children did get accepted into their first choice school, while 97.12% were given one of their top three choices.

But Mother of three Emma Barry told the Mercury she did not get her first choice of St Mary’s Primary School for her daughter Sophie.

She said: “My daughter will be four in June. I put her name down for St Mary’s, but no other school because I had my heart set on it.

“It’s a fantastic school with polite students. I live in Durleigh, so the school is also nearby.”

But Sophie was instead offered a place at Bridgwater College Academy’s primary phase campus.

Emma said: “There’re four schools closer to us than in Sydenham, which is on the other side of town.

“I know it has to be done within reason, but a school on the other side of the town is silly.

“They give you the choice and you should be able to make that choice, not the council.

“If I have to, I will keep her back a year until she’s five as a last resort to ensure she gets a school that is right for her. Like any parent I just want what’s best for my child.”

Another parent, Dawn White, from Cannington, also applied to St Mary’s for her four-year-old son Jamie Marks.

Dawn said: “We chose St Mary’s because it has a breakfast club starting from 7.30am. We both start work very early, so this was ideal; all this we stated in the application.

“We put down other choices, because we thought we had to, and we got our second choice - but they don’t cater for our hours and needs.

“St Mary’s is a Church of England school and we put that our son is christened and details of our church.

“The council seemed to ignore the bit about us needing the breakfast club and instead asked us to prove our religion.

“The school said it didn’t need proof and I felt the council’s request was invasive. We go to church, but we shouldn’t have to prove it.

“I’m appealing the decision. We won’t get results until just ten days before they are due to start school.”

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “Somerset County Council strongly recommends that parents/carers choose three schools, especially in urban areas, and strongly consider stating the catchment school as one of these preferences.

“Parents/carers are encouraged to read the information and guidance on applying for a school place which is available on the school admissions website, in the starting school booklet for parents and in the letter sent to home addresses advising parents to apply for a school place for their child.

“It states on the school admissions website that a parent/carer is not given a higher priority for any school by stating it as the only preference and may be more likely to be allocated a school they have not chosen.

“Parent/carers are encouraged to carefully read the over-subscription criteria for the schools they have chosen and provide any supporting information as required.

“If a parent/carer chooses not to provide this information, even when it is directly requested, then it will not be possible for a child to be considered under this criterion and this may result in a lower priority for a school place.

“The over-subscription criteria for a school determines how places are allocated and factors such as a working hours cannot be taken into consideration when allocating school places.”

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SOMERSET County Council says the figures are an improvement on last year, when 90.67% of children received their first choice, and 96.68% secured one of their top three choices.

It also said 21 fewer children applied for school places than in 2013.

Cllr Frances Nicholson, cabinet member for children and families, said: “It is great news that in almost all cases we have been able to meet parents and carers’ preferences.

“For those children who haven't got one of their top three choices, we will work with the families to make sure we meet that child’s educational needs.”

Due to a rise in applications last year, the county council announced it was working with schools to increase the number of places for pupils.

It also said it planned to spend £6.4million between 2013-14 and 2014-15 to ease the strain.

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