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Sisters can't go to same village school

PUBLISHED: 14:18 24 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:23 03 March 2010

YET another Suffolk couple have hit out at education officials after they ruled their five-year-old daughter cannot go to a school near her home.

By JESSICA NICHOLLS

Jessica.nicholls@ecng.co.uk

YET another Suffolk couple today hit out at education officials after they ruled their five-year-old daughter cannot go to a school near her home.

Despite the fact that Samantha Wells' older sister, Georgina, ten, is already a pupil at Grundisburgh Primary, the local education authority says the youngster cannot follow because the family live out of the catchment area.

Grundisburgh School is just a 20-minute walk from their house in Hasketon, but the catchment school, Woodbridge County Primary is around four miles away.

Their parents Sandra and Steve have four children and live right on the boundary of Grundisburgh.

Despite some places still being available at Grundisburgh an appeal hearing turned them and four other families down.

It was felt that admitting Samantha to the school would not be an efficient use of resources and that it may prejudice the education of the other children – even though the places could still be filled by in-catchment children.

Although they had been told last September that there would be no problems with Samantha going to the school they were shocked to find out in January that it was unlikely she would be accepted.

Since then they have been fighting a battle with the LEA that has brought 41-year-old Mrs Wells to the end of her tether.

She said: "This has been like a living hell for the past six months – I have not been able to think about anything else.

"Samantha has been offered a place at Woodbridge but there is no room for Georgina.

"Although there is school transport for Samantha I might not be able to get back in time from picking Georgina up to collect her from where she had been dropped off.

"That would leave my little girl standing on her own somewhere."

Both girls have been offered places at Kyson School but because it is also out of the catchment area, Mrs Wells said she is concerned that she will have the same problem again when three-year-old Tom and one-year-old Charlotte reach school age.

Mr Wells has also strongly criticised the system.

He said: "I have never experienced anything like this before.

"The school and the governors are doing everything they can to help us.

"The most incredulous thing about all of this is that the school has found the space.

"Georgina is devastated that her sister cannot go to the same school but she is in her last year and we don't really want to move her."

Graham Hudson, head teacher at Grundisburgh, said that he fully appreciated that the LEA had to operate a fair and accountable system to allocate school places to prevent unfair preferential treatment, but felt that a fresh look at the system was needed.

He said: "I feel very strongly that the rules governing admissions need to be freed up to allow flexibility of response to avoid wherever possible the nightmare of unreasonably long journeys for children or having to move schools because younger siblings cannot be admitted."

Mr Wells also expressed concern about the cost of the appeal that was held at the Marlborough Hotel in Ipswich.

But a spokeswoman for the county council said that laws have changed and they can no longer hold places at schools just for catchment area children.

At the same time children cannot be taught in an over crowded environment.

She said: "We understand that parents may feel frustrated if their child cannot go to the school that is closest to them but it is important that children are taught in safe environments that are not overcrowded.

"Wherever possible we try to ensure that a parent's preference for a school place is met, and indeed we have a good record of doing so."

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