Campaigning Leeds parents welcome extra school places but warn of future problems

Parents at last week's rally over the school places crisis in North Leeds.
Parents at last week's rally over the school places crisis in North Leeds.
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CAMPAIGNERS say the extra 60 places announced at two North Leeds primary schools last week are in the right place and will help to tackle this year’s shortage.

However they warned that a long term solution needs to be found to avoid a repeat of the situation in future.

Parents in Roundhay, Moortown and Alwoodley have mounted a high profile campaign after more than 80 missed out on places at their local schools despite applying for those nearest too them. During the countdown to the general election they were able to put questions directly to both Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne and last week staged a rally outside Civic Hall.

Since National Offer Day Leeds City Council has secured 90 more places at Gledhow, Wigton Moor and Highfield following talks. Lucy Clement, one of the parents involved in the Fair Access group, said: “The places in Wigton Moor and Highfield are in the right place and we are confident that it will be good news for 80 to 90 per cent of our group.”

However she stressed the need to focus on school provision in future years. “The birth rate for pupils starting school in 2017 is even higher in this area than it has been this year and a lot of us will have our siblings starting school. Because of what has happened this year with more places being created there will be a higher number of siblings in the system.”

Currently siblings have priority in school admissions in Leeds meaning places could be even more difficult to come by for parents with their first child starting school.

She warned that bulge classes may not be possible again in the schools which expanded this year. but added: “We have had some very encouraging messages from councillors about meeting with us so we hope planning can start now. I don’t think this is something that a change to the admissions policy can alter. There just isn’t enough capacity in North Leeds.” She said she was not arguing for a change to the sibling rule.

“Many of us will now rely on the sibling rule because we will have been allocated a place at a school which is not our nearest - through no fault of our own.”

Mrs Clement said she had obtained figures which showed there were 500 children for whom Talbot, Wigton Moor, Highfield, Alwoodley, Shadwell and Moortown Primary schools were their nearest schools. However these schools had 300 places available.

Last week the Department for Education said it wanted talks with Leeds Council over how it allocated money given to it to provide extra places in light of the parents’ campaign.

However Leeds City Council’s new leader Judith Blake has dismissed the idea that extra places had been found because of Government pressure.

Last week Coun Blake said that the council had been committed to finding a solution from day one and would welcome the chance to discuss with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan the impact Government policy has on school places planning in Leeds.

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