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Parents 'heartbroken over school places

Published: 28 Apr 2012 12:000 comments

HUNDREDS of furious parents were left "heartbroken" this week after missing out on their first choice of primary school.

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HUNDREDS of furious parents were left "heartbroken" this week after missing out on their first choice of primary school.

Nearly a quarter - 23.8% - of Reading families who eagerly ripped open their envelopes found their children had missed out on their first choice.

One angry west Reading parent, who has a son due to start school in September and a three-year-old daughter, said: "We applied for a place at Wilson Primary School, but we got a letter on Saturday saying there was no education available for my son.

"We were gobsmacked. After we contacted the admissions team, we found out he was fifth on the list for a place at Wilson, but other families are in much worse situations than we are.

"We are relying on people not taking up places at the school for my son to get in, so it is a waiting game, but a parent's role is to support education - it is not my job to educate my son."

Of the 2,144 pupils applying for school places in Reading, 76.2% got their first choice, compared to 82.3% last year. In Wokingham, 1,946 pupils applied for places and 83.4% secured their first choice, compared to 85.1% last year, and in West Berkshire, 1,993 pupils applied, with 84.2% getting their first place, which was 4.8% more than last year.

Another mum, who lives in Oxford Road, had Wilson and All Saints as her top two choices - but her daughter was given a place at Ranikhet, a 45 minute walk away. She said: "I don't drive and there is no way I can take my son to nursery, and then get my daughter to school on time.

"I was crying all weekend, I was heartbroken, and no-one prepares you for this situation."

Reading Borough Council spokesman Oscar Mortali said: "This year Reading has received applications for 2,144 children seeking a place at school for September 2012. This is an increase of 197 (10%) from last year, which follows the national trend. However in Reading only 6% fewer families have been offered their first preference at this stage.

"A £20m investment has been made by the council, over a five year period, to increase capacity in three schools with a further £1.8 million invested this year on temporary measures to cope with high demand, in part caused by the economic pressures which are restricting the social mobility that has always been common in the borough.

"This means as families grow they are having to remain living in the same houses, which in turn puts additional pressure on school places in those areas instead of spreading it more evenly across the borough.

"The council is working closely with schools across the borough and we are confident we will at the end of the process accommodate all of the children who applied for a place.

"As always, we have done everything possible to try to meet parents' aspirations for where their children go to school and we fully understand that some parents will be disappointed. However, in the circumstances, we have done everything we can to distribute places as fairly as possible by following the published admission policies and processes.

"It is common at this stage in the process for there to be instances where we have not yet made an offer of a school place, this is very much a temporary position however. The next stage in the process is for parents to accept and return their offers by May 4.

"Once we have that confirmation we can begin the process of working closely with local schools to identify places for the remainder of children and we are confident that this will prove to be the case."

Did your child miss out on a school place? Email twatkins@berksmedia.co.uk

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