Parents battle for Stoke-on-Trent reception class places
ALMOST 100 parents whose children lost out on reception class places in Stoke-on-Trent have taken their cases to appeal this year.
The dramatic increase in the number of people battling to get their children into over-subscribed schools is linked to rising birth rates across the city.
It has meant that an extra 223 places have been needed for four and five-year-olds starting primary education this month.
Yet despite 98 appeals being lodged – compared with 35 cases the previous year – just five families were successful in overturning the original admissions decision.
The main reason for the disappointment was they lived outside a school's catchment area.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council said some parents left little room for manoeuvre as they only named one school on their form, instead of listing their top three preferences.
Paul Gerrard, strategic manager for school support, said: "They put all their eggs in one basket.
"Another factor is that some parents choose to place their children in a nursery class at a school that is not really their local school.
"Sometimes, that's because it is near grandparents or work. The child then settles in there.
"But we cannot give them preference for a reception place at the same school because it would prejudice people from the local area who didn't want to access the nursery provision."
The city council is now planning to introduce catchment areas for nursery classes to help prevent families falling into the same trap next year.
Another factor driving the appeals is that some families submitted their applications after the January 15 deadline.
Demand for reception places has increased by seven per cent, with 3,326 children starting school in the city this month.
In recent years, the council has created more than 200 extra places per year group to help ease this pressure.
Mr Gerrard stressed that 88 per cent of parents have still managed to get their children into top-choice primary schools this year.
Jennifer Rowley, from Trent Vale, is one of the disappointed parents who went to appeal. Her four-year-old son Logan McCambridge was in the nursery at St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary, in Stoke, last year, but lost out on a reception place because he lived outside the catchment area.
Ms Rowley, aged 27, said: "We got turned down for all the three schools we chose.
"I'm a practising Catholic and they said the nearest Catholic school with a place was in Longton.
"The appeal for St Thomas' was heard just two days before they broke up for the end of term. I was absolutely devastated when we weren't successful."
She finally managed to get Logan into St Teresa's Catholic Primary, in Trent Vale. The school had originally turned Logan down because it was full, but a place became available.