Rising student numbers causes school places ‘crisis’ in Ipswich, say angry parents

Fed-up family: From left Sharon Daynes, Jayden Daynes and Daniel Topple

Fed-up family: From left Sharon Daynes, Jayden Daynes and Daniel Topple - Credit: Gregg Brown

Some children are being “forced” to go to struggling Ipswich schools because the best ones are massively oversubscribed, angry parents have claimed.

Ipswich Academy.

Ipswich Academy. - Credit: Su Anderson

Last week pupils found out if they had been granted their preferred secondary school choice for this September.

Suffolk County Council said it tried to “always meet parental preference where possible” but some parents have been left “crushed” by the news that their child is heading to a school in special measures rather than a “good” one just a short distance away.

This is in a year where across Suffolk there are almost 700 more pupils entering Year 7 than in 2014 – a fact the county council says needs to be considered.

Many frustrated parents claim council officials have known how many children would need secondary school place for years.

Northgate High School, which has a “good” Ofsted rating, was oversubscribed by more than 140 students. It will have 252 children in its Year Seven from September.

Headteacher Dave Hutton said there were no plans to expand the school, which has 1,700 pupils, including its sixth form.

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“The governors discussed it in the past. They feel the current school is big enough and do not want to change the ethos of the school by expanding it,” he said.

“We have a unique lower school building for Years 7 and 8 and expanding the school would mean significant change to it.”

Kesgrave High School, another “good” school, has decided to take on an extra 28 pupils this September despite it being at capacity.

The school still has 80 children on its waiting list. It will have 308 children in Year 7 from September. The school’s headteacher, Nigel Burgoyne, said: “The situation is that we have had a significant amount of children wanting to come to the school.

“We have 280 in Year 7 and now we are taking on an additional 28 this September which is very difficult because we are at capacity and it’s not something we can repeat but we are aware that there is a big pressure on schools out there.

“There’s lots more developments coming in the area. For instance, in Martlesham there will be another 150 homes going up.”

Almost 93% of the 6,717 children who applied were given their preferred school for this September in Suffolk.

The figure is a slight fall on the previous total of 93.9%.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We always aim to meet parental preference where possible and are sympathetic to students who do not get their first choice school.

“Popular schools are often oversubscribed and in these cases, students are offered a place at one of their next preferred schools, or if this is not possible, we offer a place at the catchment school if places are still available.

“Students who are unsuccessful in getting a place at their preferred school are added to the waiting list.

“Less than 3% of students (194) were not offered their first, second or third choice school for September 2015.”

Case studies: Two unhappy families

Sharon Daynes, 38, from Clapgate Lane, Ipswich, said she was “crushed” when she heard her son would have to go to Ipswich Academy.

Jayden Daynes, 11, goes to Cliff Lane Primary School, and has severe autism, specifically Asperger’s syndrome.

Mrs Daynes said: “I was crushed, absolutely crushed, because I just do not want him to go to that school,” she said. “I don’t think he will cope there in that environment.”

She added that Copleston’s sports facilities were a big draw because Jayden is keen on football.

Suffolk County Council said it would not comment on individual cases.

Ipswich dad James Spurling claimed the school admission system had “failed” as his 10-year-old daughter was denied a place at Copleston High School.

Mr Spurling, 37, from Dereham Avenue, said daughter Kaitlin, pictured, who is currently at Cliff Lane Primary School, was being “forced” to attend Ipswich Academy from September.

That school, formerly Holywells High School, was placed in special measures by Ofsted last month.

Copleston High School though has a “good” Ofsted rating and was Mr Spurling’s preferred choice for his daughter.

“You are given a choice of putting down three schools but then you find the answer that they are all oversubscribed – why are they all oversubscribed? It’s terrible, it’s absolutely terrible.

“It seems that there are too many children for too few schools. Surely the system is not working.”

Although he said his family live less than two miles from Copleston the family are still outside the school’s catchment area.

Ipswich Academy’s response:

Pamela Hutchison, executive principal of Ipswich Academy, said: “Over the next year, two years and three years the school will just get better and better.

“Going somewhere which is improving is a good place to be.

“If you talk to staff and parents of students who are there – that’s what they would say.

“The youngsters are engaged in their learning, we have got really clear pathways for Year 11 who will be sitting their exams shortly.

“One thing we recognise as something which we did not do particular well in the past was to assess the children and know where they were.

“And we are now much better at doing that now.”