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Mother works to fix flawed schools admissions criteria

December 19, 2012 12:36 PM

Cambridge mother-of-two Sharon Neufeld is working to fix the county's flawed schools admission process after her daughter was the only child in the street not initially given a place at her catchment school.

She has teamed up with Cambridgeshire County Councillor, Lib Dem Ian Manning to try to make sense of the selection process which could have left her travelling one a half miles to get her five-year-old daughter to her classroom.

Sharon, of Pakenham Close, and Ian produced a paper for county councillors outlining some of the problems with the admissions process and asking for a clear indication of how it works.

She said: "We were the only family in the street who initially didn't get a place at our catchment school for our child. We are in the last house on a dead-end street and we were told our daughter couldn't go to school with her friends and neighbours.

"If the county council cares about communities it shouldn't be splitting them in this way. The chances of getting into your catchment school changes year on year depending on the numbers of children in catchment, how many siblings are applying, distance between home and school compared with other applicants and so on; so parents don't have any idea whether their child will be successful in getting a place."

After being rejected from Milton Road Primary School based on the distance between school and home, Sharon was told her daughter would have to go to St Matthew's School, one and a half miles away.

It would have meant Sharon, who is pregnant with her third child, taking her daughter and two-year-old son in a bike trailer to school every morning before going to work.

"We bought our home so that we could stay in catchment for our local school," added Sharon. "Our daughter had built friendships at nursery with children who were going to go to school with her.

"If the county council hap-hazardly sends children off to school to distant places they are dispersing communities. I did so much research on this issue for the appeal hearing and I didn't want it to stop there. I wanted to help others who found themselves in this situation More thought needs to be given to this process."

Ian said: "Some communities are split in two when it comes to school selection. Pakenham Close is such an area, despite houses being next to each other physically. Another example is the VIE development, where some houses fall into the Milton Road Primary School catchment and others in the Shirley Primary School catchment.

"Parents living in these areas have far less chance of getting to their first or second choice schools, and I want to know what the council can do to stop them being disadvantaged in this way.