I'm fighting for a place in a school for my daughter

Christine Phillips's picture
No school place in Haringey? Try homeschooling. That's what I was told by Haringey Council when my application for a reception place left my daughter without a school.

It’s been more than three weeks since the start of the new term. While everyone we know is proudly taking their children to school in their crisp new uniforms, my four-year-old daughter is stuck at home, stuck in limbo without a school place and without any idea of when she might get one.

We knew applying for a reception place was a fraught and competitive process, with rumours of parents using second properties to put in multiple applications, others renting in a catchment area, or families attending church to get the all-important signature from a priest or vicar that would guarantee them a place in a faith school.

Our position on the various school waiting lists varies from 4th to 46th, and none of the schools in question are more than a mile from where we live. We have sought the advice of councillors, schools governors and other parents, all of whom suggested that there would be enough movement at the start of term to get a place with children not turning up, and places becoming free. One friend told us of a family called by the council offering a place the night before term started. We’re still waiting for the phone to ring with good news.

Haringey prepared us for the worst. We were told early on that our best bet would be home-schooling, because pressure on places this year was so high. Last year it was reported that more than 30 children were without places in reception in Haringey and this year, we were told, things are even worse.

One of the things that I have found hardest to deal with is my total inability to do anything to resolve the problem. Our fate lies in the hands of Haringey. I have been in touch with other mothers in the same position elsewhere in London and in Buckinghamshire, where the pressure on places is equally high. They feel equally paralysed. One mother in Brent described the heart-break of having to tell her daughter she wouldn’t be going to school, when all her friends had places. She feels their lives are on hold while they wait along with around 70 other families for a reception place. She is considering quitting her job to look after her daughter until she finds a place.

Another mother said she feels as though she has let her daughter down by not being able to get her into school. We all fear having to travel across town to get to school, but I have been told that LEAs would rather pay for transport for a child to cross London than provide another teacher or class in an oversubscribed area. Age four is way too young to become a commuter.

Sympathetic council staff have suggested there simply aren’t enough school places in the right locations. It is, no doubt, a complex business, tracking the number of children approaching school age, taking into account those that might leave or move into an area, or those that might choose to go private. There has to be a better way of ensuring that all our children get the chance to start their education without this horrific overlay of anxiety and disappointment. I have lived in Haringey since 2007 and in London since 1998. Friends suggest I should withhold my council tax until we get the education services we are paying for, but I doubt that will help.

We have ceased to talk about the problem in front of my daughter, although the subject dominates our conversations after she’s gone to bed. Our complaint is now lodged with the Local Government Ombudsman. My four year old daughter discussed the situation with her six year old cousin at the weekend – they decided it was outrageous, and that they should write a letter. We have written to everyone we can think of and we await the LGO’s decision.
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Toby Young's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 08:22

This is a really good argument for the free schools policy.

First, it clearly demonstrates the basic need for more school places. Give that, the Department for Education has to make what little capital it has to create new school places go as far as possible and allowing groups of teachers and parents to set up new free schools is far more inexpensive than handing that money over to local authorities and entrusting the task to them.

Second, it proves just what a non-sequitur one of the main objections to the policy is, namely, that local authorities are better placed to plan pupil place provision than independent providers. As this article proves, Haringey can't plan its way out of a paper bag.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 09:15

I thought Haringey had already opened one free (Jewish) school?
If the DFE now has the responsibility for providing new places ( as appears to be the case if the only option is now a new centrally funded free school or academy) the parents must take their case to the Secretary of State. I suspect he will be very busy in years to come and it will be interesting to see whether he does a better job than LAs have been able to do in very difficult circumstances when sites are so hard to find.
Finally we won't be able to judge whether the DFE is more efficient at providing places until the government, or individual free school providers, are prepared to provide figures for the capital costs of setting up new free schools.
They seem unwilling to do this so we can only presume that the costs don't compare very favourably.

Shane Rae's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 08:49

Wow, Toby you must watch this site like a hawk to be able to pounce so quickly.

How would the pursuit of a Free School help this child gain a place in Reception? I agree that is demonstrates the need for more school places but surely this (or any) child deserves to be taught by qualified teachers at a school also run by a qualified teacher?

This post (not article) does point out that the damage done by Central Government stripping funding out of the pot for local schools and instead directing it to unproved pet projects.

I suppose Haringey has a point-at least home schooling has a demonstrated success.

Nigel Ford's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 09:34

Shame Haringey doesn't have a Learning Trust body like Hackney to oversee the planning and logistical work of allotting school places to reflect demographic demand. With their track record there shouldn't be a problem.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 09:53

I am not sure this is an issue about LA competence. In most London boroughs the problem with setting up new schools has been finding a suitable site and if necessary getting the money to purchase it. The simplest solution would be to get existing primary schools to expand. Unfortunately most are quite reluctant to do so and ,in my experience, parents in the existing schools fight quite hard to keep the size as it is.

Toby Young's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 10:18

In answer to your first point Fiona, I don't think it's unreasonable to hold Haringey Council responsible for the lack of primary school places in the borough this year. Given how long it takes local authorities to set up schools, it couldn't have set one up in time to meet the demand in Christine Phillips's area this year even if the present Government had made the capital funding available. It should have applied for the funding to do so in 2009, at the very latest, when Ed Balls was in charge. So you can't blame Michael Gove for the lack of primary school places in Haringey.

In answer to your second point, I'm not sure the answer is to stick more prefabs in primary school playgrounds. As you say, that's extremely unpopular with parents and staff, given the lack of play space as is. If this really is your preferred solution – I know it's Francis Gilbert's – I think it's important that you should make that clear if you become the Labour parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 11:06

For many parents in search of a school place, an existing popular school is often their first choice. Many would very much like their local schools to expand so this is a matter of weighing up the wishes of existing parents against future ones.

Planning school places is a very imprecise science. In Camden where I live, the local authority invested heavily in a very rapid expansion of school places a few years ago, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on a converting a small private school to accommodate a shortfall at reception. The next year it couldn't be filled and they had to close it down and hand it back to the private sector.

it is also possible that some of the demand for school places in inner London could be met if the faith primary schools opened their doors to local children, rather than importing pupils from further away who pass the faith entry criteria.

As I have explained to you and others I have no intention of standing for Parliament. However the person who does become the next candidate for H and K will be able to point to a new primary school, currently being set up by the Labour council in Kilburn to meet surplus demand in that part of the borough. A good example of local authority planning in practice.

Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 11:02

I can't see how this situation can be construed as a good argument for the free school policy. As we all know, free schools are a side show. They are educating a very tiny proportion of the population and, despite the brief fanfare of publicity when the 26 opened this autumn, the number opening in autun 2012 and beyond are hardly going to make a difference to providing school places for over-populated boroughs. The success in Hackney in recent years has been the establishing of large Academies which has have seved the community extremely well. The attempt to set up a Free School in Hackney failed. The consultation showed that very few people preferred it to a new Academy. A meeting of parents and local people also revealed that, had the LA offered the choice (which they legally should have) then they would have preferred a community school stewarded by the LA. It seems that the support for Free Schools is not as great as we have been led to believe, which is presumably why the New Schools Network felt it necessary to make false claims about parental demand or, indeed, that a Hackney Free School would be opening in 2012, as reported here:


It seems to me that the figures we have heard of £12m and then a further £7m going to a small free school in West London apparently educating the preferred disadvatanged could have gone to expanding provision for a much greater number of children. Pre-fabs aren't the best idea for schools premises, but neither are temporary warehouses or other buildings not fit for purpose and more expensive to renovate and maintain that schools built as schools.

The problem highlighted here in Haringey illustrates how successive governments have not fully and coherently tackled the challenge of state provision for education. Clearly expensive free schools serving the few is not the best solution for Haringey.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 14:15

Christine - If you haven't already done so, write to Haringey reminding the Council that is has a statutory duty to find a place in a primary school for your daughter (see post below for more information). Send copies of the letter to a local councillor and your MP. Publicise your situation (you've already done that by posting your story here) - local paper and so on. If you know of other parents in the same situation, then get together with them.

Keep pushing. And let us know how you get on.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 14:17

Haringey has a statutory duty to ensure a place in a primary or secondary school. The Haringey Annual School Place Planning Report 2011 makes that quite clear. Haringey recognised that birth rates in the borough were rising and this would create pressure on primary schools. The report voiced concerns raised by the Academies Bill – it had made planning uncertain and more complex. The Council were aware of three applications for free schools to open in 2012 and these had to be factored into planning even though they might not get approval. Extra uncertainty was also caused by the possibility of Haringey schools converting to academies.

In June 2011 the Financial Times reported that there was a possibility of four free schools in Haringey yet only one opened: the Eden Jewish Primary School. Council recognised that Eden had created extra reception places. However, these were not enough. The provision of free schools is outside its control thereby making it more difficult for the Council to plan. The Council Minutes discuss possible courses of action ranging from “bulge” classes to consulting on expanding particular schools (click on link below for further information).



Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 14:20

Far from easing the strain of school places in Haringey, the free school/academies programme has made it worse. Councils, not just Haringey but across England, are all facing similar complexity and uncertainty. If local authorities ignore the possibility of free schools opening in their area and go ahead with expansion plans to meet future need then they risk having surplus places if a free school does open. And local authorities have a duty to reduce surplus places but they have no power to close free schools or academies. Does anyone in the DfE have an answer to this – if there are enough surplus places in an authority to warrant the closing of a school, will the authority be obliged to shut its own maintained school even if it is popular?

When the Education Bill is passed Councils will be unable to plan their own schools – they will be forced to consider free schools or academies. This will make local authorities reliant on the willingness, or otherwise, of groups to establish new schools.

Christine Phillips's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 15:29

Very interesting to read all the comments and Janet, many thanks for your advice, I will remind Haringey of their duty! Re.faith schools... six of my most local schools are faith schools, including four roman catholic, all of which we are effectively excluded from. I am concerned also about the opaque admissions process that Haringey's free school uses. Local authorities need to track their populations more carefully, remove parents' ability to hold on to places in numerous schools while they 'make up their minds', and find flexibility to allow for larger or smaller year groups in the system. When I was at primary school, two year groups were combined to take account of a small year followed by a very big intake. Ultimately, like most parents, I want a local school, where my children are safe and allowed to grow their minds. This should not be impossible.

Fiona Millar's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 16:58

It would be very interesting to know how many pupils these faith primary school ( in many London boroughs) take from outside the usual catchment areas and how that would correspond with the shortage of places locally. Of course some parents may not want a faith school but entering into a negotiation with the faith providers might provide a quick and relatively inexpensive solution to the problem in some areas. Has your group considered this? Alternatively make your views known to the local admissions forum - maybe it could start an investigation into the practice of holding onto two places ( I thought this was no longer possible).

Christine Phillips's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 15:49

Two other mums and I have set up a website - http://noschoolplace.wordpress.com/
Please visit it, and if you can pass it on to your contacts, I would appreciate it. One Mum is thinking of quitting her job, we are considering moving house. LEAs' actions are dictating huge life changing decisions for our families.

Guest's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 19:04

Can I ask whether this is a problem that is peculiar to London or does anybody have knowledge of this happening elsewhere in the country.

Keith Turvey's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 20:50

Brighton and Hove have also had issues in providing enough primary (reception) places but they have responded to this by expanding some schools and opening a new school. As Janet points out, it is much easier for the LA to respond to bulges and dips when the majority of the schools are under its admissions policy. Fragment and complicate the provision of places with different types of schools responsible for their own admissions processes and this will I imagine lead to more children falling through the cracks without a place with no clear indication of whose responsibility it is; Michael Gove or the fragmented Local Authority?

I also agree with Janet, Christine - Haringey have a statutory duty to provide a place. Did they offer you a place at any school?

Christine Phillips's picture
Mon, 26/09/2011 - 20:24

Will do, that's useful advice. Personally, my preference is for a local school, faith would not be a barrier to me accepting a place.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 07:55

Christine,are all the local faith school full because if they have places they do have to offer you?

Christine Phillips's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 08:20

Haringey has not offered us a place anywhere, therefore I assume all the schools must be full - I had expected to be offered something miles away which we would not have been able to get to, but even this hasn't happened. Even if the LGO finds in our favour, I don't see how we will get a place - if the schools are full and there is no wriggle room on numbers, we will still be without a place.

Bjorn Simpole's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 11:35

Are you going through an appeals process for a place? You have a right to appeal to any school that is refusing a place. If enough of you appeal to the same school an appeals panel could even direct a school to open up another class. As mentioned above Haringey has a statutory duty to provide sufficient place and must provide a reception school place at the start of term before your child is 5. I can't understand why bulge classes have not been provided to solve this problem.

Katherine Thomasset's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 12:35

It's also a problem in Bristol. Children in my area were offered school places several miles from where they live this year. The problem was resolved for 2011 intake by having 'bulge' classes in 2 local schools, but as neither school has the capacity to expand to 2 or 3 class entry in the long term, another solution will need to be found next year.

botzarelli's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 15:39

Horrifying. I assume on the basis of the general stance of this site that it would be far from your preferred option, but are there any private schools with places nearby? Even as a stop-gap which you couldn't afford or want to do for personal reasons long-term it would mean that your children would be getting an education without you having to give up work. I guess you could get the Council to compensate you for the fees if they were found to have breached their statutory duties towards you.

Christine Phillips's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 17:27

We are about to submit appeals. Another mother has been in touch with me this afternoon in Camden. We are now five families in north London all without school places, and I suspect we are the tip of the iceberg.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 27/09/2011 - 17:55

I'm not sure that a "general stance" on this site is relevent to the situation Christine and other parents have found themselves in. Compensation from the council because you have sent you child to private school would in all probability involve substantial amounts in legal costs, as well as additional stress and anxiety.

I am one of the mothers behind http://noschoolplace.wordpress.com/. I am in Brent. I found out recently, after inquiring directly to them, that one free school in Queens' Park has vacancies in Reception. It is over in Westminster Council, so, I'd have to go through the whole admission process again; it's not ideal for various reasons (location is temporary and not that close from us but at least, it’s on the way to central London) but I guess it's worth a shot. Why councils haven't put their heads together and joined forces when they saw the big shortage coming up? Where I live, Cricklewood, the Broadway sits in between three councils, Brent, Camden and Barnett, surely someone's job should be to monitor and coordinate the data in order to make sure all kids in the area are catered for?

The school we have the most chances to get in, we are second on the waiting list, must know by now if there is a vacancy. But I am told I still have to wait another fortnight for the Council to investigate no-shows as "sometimes families go on holiday and do not inform the school" so it has to establish whether or not they still want the place! This has left me fuming when I am seriously looking at the possibility of being forced to leave my job in three weeks' time if we still have not been allocated a place.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 08:18

The Ark Atwood Primary Academy in Westminster is in temporary accommodation in Third Avenue, Queen's Park, until 2014 when it hopes to move to permanent premises in Amberley Road, Maida Hill. Their admission policy is here and contains a link to Westminster website:


According to Westminster website a parent who is not resident in Westminster but wants a child to attend a Westminster school should complete the "home" application form. The info below also refers to a "Pan-London Coordinated Admissions System" but I've no idea how this works.


All parents in the position of not being offered a place at a school can contact Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB). Info is here but it might be a bit out-of-date because it contains links to the Department of Schools and Families which no longer exists.


Sylvia - if the Council is dragging its feet because of alleged "no shows", remind them of their statutory duty to find your child a school place. It is not acceptable for them to hide behind the "no show" excuse. If parents don't send their child to a new school on the first day of term without informing the school of a reason then they should lose the place. Keep pushing, and contact CAB if you haven't done so already.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 08:23

If Ark Atwood has vacancies, then this is the second free school primary (the other being All Saints Junior School, Reading) which has not filled its classes despite having had to submit evidence of alleged demand. The public is told about those free schools which have been oversubsribed, but is not being informed of those that are undersubscribed.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 11:12

The number of small London education authorities is not a help in this situation , as Sylvia points out. So many parents live on the border of a completely different local authority and many schools educate a large proportion of pupils from other boroughs.

When ILEA ( which at least co-ordinated education in the inner London boroughs) was in existence 90% of London parents got into their first choice of schools. Now that figure is around 70%.

There needs to be much more cross borough working to try and resolve these problems, in particular sharing intelligence about possible sites for new schools if needed. New schools should be set up within that collaborative framework, not outside it.

The reluctance to discuss faith admissions more openly doesn't help either as inner London ( for historic reasons) has a very high proportion of C of E and Catholic schools.

Christine Phillips's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 11:41

In 2002 Professor Tim Brighouse was brought in as the London Schools Commissioner, and resolving the secondry school admissions nightmare was top of his to-do list. It is clear that we need a pan-London ILEA, another Prof Tim or an access regulator ASAP to give parents and schools a chance to provide a functioning admissions protocol at primary level - especially now some schools are proposing to operate as 4-18 schools.

Allan Beavis's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 11:56

I wonder how likely this is going to be, given that the present government is consdierably weakening the influence power of local authorities and centralising control within the somewhat chaotic and inefficient DfE and amongst a small cabal of Gove-appointed movers and shakers?

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 13:12

I assume the pan London scheme worked for primary admissions as well as secondary. Is that not the case? Would explain why some parents are holding more than one offer....

Christine Phillips's picture
Wed, 28/09/2011 - 16:07

There has been some coordination - one admissions date - but from what mums in other boroughs have told me we all have done it differently and applied to different numbers of schools. There is no coordination between boroughs that I can detect; Haringey sat on our application for an Islington school for a month and would have left it even longer if we hadn't made a fuss when we discovered they hadn't passed it on. Haringey won't tell us where we are on the Islington lists and vice versa. A pan-London date isn't enough. Prof Brighouse talked about a pan-London clearning house. I think it would have been a good idea.

Sylvia Gauthereau's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 07:51

According to London Councils, September 2011 should have been the first year when the Pan London Admission Scheme would have coordinated and overseen allocation of primary school places: http://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/news/current/pressdetail.htm?pk=1176, Apparently, according to LC, it has been quite successful with dealing with secondary places. It didn't seem to work for us.

I came across another interesting figure on their website: "London’s problem is compounded by the distribution of funding. In 2011/12 London has only been allocated 26 per cent of the available funding for school places despite having 64 per cent of the shortfall in places." (PR, April 2011, London Councils).

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 09:41

Thanks for that Sylvia. It's worth quoting in full the view of London Councils who put the blame for their failure to meet the demand for places with the Government:

"London boroughs expect that around 70,000 permanent school places will be needed over the next four years to ensure that every pupil has a permanent school place. Funding provided by Government so far has been insufficient to meet demand. In 2011/12 London received £210 million but needs around £520 million to ensure every London pupil has a permanent school place."

"Recognising the budgetary constraints at the Department for Education London Councils has developed a cost neutral solution to London's problem. London Councils is calling on the Government to revise its funding methodology to ensure that capital funding for school places is allocated to the areas of greatest need. London Councils' analysis, based on data published by the Department for Education shows that in 2011/12 London has only been allocated 26% of the available funding for school places despite having 64% of the shortfall in places. This results in London losing out on over £320 million."


Perhaps those who say that the shortage of school places in London vindicates the Government's free schools programme should consider where the fault really lies: in the Government's inability to fund Councils properly.

Christine Phillips's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 12:07

I discovered this morning that my two nearest schools are both under capacity, with space in yrs 1-5 in one school, and FOUR empty classrooms in another. Perhaps an audit of capacity and making use of what is actually there would be a first easy win when times are hard.

Katherine Thomasset's picture
Thu, 29/09/2011 - 13:13

Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a "bulge" class (an additional reception class for one year only, which moves up through the school). This is what my children's school in Bristol has done this year to provide a short term solution to the shortage of places here. This has been done in a number of Bristol schools, I think.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 02/10/2011 - 16:33

I just wondered how you are getting on Christine? It's such an awful situation and my heart goes out to you.

As you work away at this I'm sure you'll gain/have gained more insights into how this horrible situation has occurred. Given that there is spare capacity in previous years is there a sudden population bulge in your daughter's year or something? If so Katherine's 'bulge class' suggestion sounds like a good one to pursue. Well done to you for getting organised and trying to work with other parents to address this coherently and good luck with it.

Rosemary Mann's picture
Sun, 02/10/2011 - 18:25

This is a dreadful position for any family or child to have to endure and I am glad it isn't me however I suspect that most children in that position will eventually find a place in year but this does mean uncertainty about location and commuting and also isn't helpful to a lot of children whose friends start a lot earlier, nor to parents who now have to find appropriate childcare which is no doubt expensive.

Toby, your analysis of the situation is a little simplistic - the introduction of free schools into the mix has only confused the situation completely when it comes to planning for new school places- how could it possibly not? Your theory that a bunch of parents can get a new school up and running a lot more quickly than a Council is probably right if decisons are made at the speed of light and standards are driven right down, and as a parent I worry about that increasing trend about 'pop up' schools. Schools take a long time to plan and build, for very good reasons. It can all be improved no doubt but to go down the pop up route fills me, as a parent and governor, with complete dread about the naievity of it all. Please also demonstrate how your school has produced value for money. And also please demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt how your school has and will meet future need in its current location as that also forms part of hte VFM assessment.

I can't comment on the Haringey situation as a borough but it isn't impossible that the Council itself hasn't performed as it should. We need new and extended provision of school places in areas like London- that is a given however that requires central government funds and I am aware that many local authorities are facing difficult situations at present on that front. Councils have to bid for such funding on the basis of basic need and demonstrate value per pound per child. This is often difficult in inner city areas where sites have planning problems and are generally difficult to construct- all justifiably actually as schools have a huge environmental impact on its local community and traffic generation hence a range of issues needs to be considered.

The concern about prefabs in the playground is often unfounded as many of these buildings are actually very nice classrooms and have insulation and thermal properties greater than many existing buildings. They might look like a bit of an 'add on' but many can be integrated well into their existing environments. However these are not a permanent answer to our provision challenges but please don't rule these out as a satisfactory interim solution.

There is a current bidding round for funds from central Government for new school provision- it would be good to keep an eye on that and see what materialises.

Christine Phillips's picture
Sun, 02/10/2011 - 21:29

Rebecca, many thanks for your kind words. Our appeals are based on the space we have identified and I hope that this, combined with Haringey's failure in duty to my daughter will find us a place soon. My daughter told me this weekend that she has no friends, the social impact on my four-year-old is perhaps the worst and most heart-breaking. If I have learned anything it is this: despite the complexity of school provision what the majority of parents want is simple, a good local school.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 02/10/2011 - 22:55

Hi Christene,
Well done for your progress.

I just wanted to reassure you that no matter how stressful the upset you watch your wee one going through they do bounce back so fast it's amazing. That's why they inspire us so much I think. Their rate of recovery makes anything seem possible.

I hope things progress well for you and that you're in the hurly burly of reception class birthday parties soon and getting to know your daughter's new friends and their parents. Don't worry at all about missing the first part. No-one can remember who the heck is who at that stage anyway.

I have so much sympathy for my friends trying to raise kids in London - the competitive issues are so intense.

Please do keep us updated and in the meantime I hope you get to kick leaves and collect conkers.

I think Roslyn's post has some very relevant points in it but I suspect the time for you to best analyse and criticise them will be after all this is resolved.

I just thought I'd give you an update: I found a school for my daughter! At last. I say, I because I did all the legwork myself. Brent merely passed on my request to Westminster. I still have to figure out a better/quicker way to get there (at the moment it takes us one hour in a bus) but otherwise, I have to admit I have really been impressed.

I wasn't convinced by the free school initiative because I am a strong believer, education should fall under the merit of the state and all schools should be of equal quality, but my experience, dealing with the LEA, has left me doubtful with regards to their abilities to deal with issues such as severe place shortage or even admitting pupils in the best area fro them. The way this school dealt with us has been efficient, swift and they all seem so knowledgeable.

Should we remove the choice for parents to send their kids anywhere they want (except special circumstances)? In that way, parents would send their kids to their local school and it will be a real good mix of backgrounds. Local schools could really benefit from the apparent expertise of free schools such as the one my daughter is now attending instead of working in parallel. My local school was abandoned by local people a while ago, we now have a situation where most pupils are from outside the catchment area whilst people like us, living close by can't get a place. It's very sad.

Fiona Millar's picture
Tue, 11/10/2011 - 20:20

Good news that you have a place at last. I am not quite clear why the school that has accepted you is able to take pupils from an hour away. Was it undersubscribed in its own community, or not accepting local children for some reason to do with its own admissions?

I think it was just undersubscribed, maybe not many people knew about it.

Fiona Millar's picture
Wed, 12/10/2011 - 19:47

It is interesting that several of the new free schools appear to be undersubscribed. Clearly the demand the anticipated in their proposals may not have materialised.

Philip Allega's picture
Sun, 25/11/2012 - 19:05

We, too, were "offered" home schooling. And, we have no choice. If we don't, we'll be hauled before the courts and our son will be put in care (where, ironically, he would jump to the top of the list for a placement).

The one offer for a school we had, after complaining to our local council and our MP, would have required buying a car or having a 6 year old commute 90 minutes a day and his mother 3 hours. Saying no moved us off of one queue to another.

The result? No school for Y1 and none for Y2, so far.

With no consideration for means (e.g., pay for private, buy a car, etc.) or considerations for being on the waiting list for a long time, waiting is part of the game that the government plays. It's legal, and it's not easy on us.

It would be nice to see some transparency in the system. We are calling schools and other councils and the schools in other councils, saving our pennies and looking at other spots in the country that might not be as oversubscribed or more capable of making an allocation. But, there's no system that says, "Hey, over here! We've got spaces!". It's all hidden.

Unfortunately, we're not alone. We don't know who they are, but they are out there and there are more in the same boat coming soon. This Guardian article this past June highlights the plight of those like us and the challenges fo the system to cope:


We're hopeful for a "bounce back", but with so much time lost we don't think it can ever be recovered. No school place, no school, lost opportunities, challenging life ahead.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sun, 25/11/2012 - 19:22

Hello Philip, welcome to the forum. This discussion is more than a year old.

Do you think you might find the time to register with the forum and start a new discussion so that we can chat to you about these issues? It's more than time we revisited this topic and your case would give us a good context to explore and work from.

I'm very sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing and am happy to chat about all aspects of them including giving you some practical tips on homeschooling. We do have space here in Cumbria as our rural schools have substantial flexibility in capacity.

jane denyer's picture
Wed, 06/02/2013 - 12:46

This has become a common problem, In my opinion there should be (A) funding for parents to Home School their children or (B) There should be funds allocated to put that child into a private sector placement in the catchment area. Community is everything and support along with resources for parents is vital. The Law states that a child has the human right to attend school and the parents have the human right to have a choice of a particular school.

Hate Kingston's picture
Thu, 12/06/2014 - 20:35

kingston is equally worse. My daughter is waiting list of all local schools for 2014. People who run LA send their kids to private schools and do not give xxx about state school. Disgusting.

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