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Children face going to different Carlisle schools from siblings

Children could face going to separate schools from their siblings as a school places row rages.

Split up family photo
From left, Amy Whyte with daughters Ellie May and Lucy, six. Kian Meek, sister Caitlin and mum Kathryn Erskine

Parents are angry at the situation, which has seen at least four families affected at Stanwix.

They include 30-year-old Amy Whyte. Her daughter Lucy, six, who has learning difficulties, has been at Stanwix school for a year, but her sister, Ellie May, four, has not been offered a place at Stanwix but at Kingmoor, two miles away.

“I don’t drive,” Amy said. “There’s no way I can get them to separate schools. Ellie would lose two hours of education a day.”

Taking Lucy out of Stanwix primary school – where she has “fantastic support” from teachers and eight hours of teaching support a week – is not an option. “I’d have to consider home schooling Ellie,” Amy said. “She’s very bright and very protective of her older sister. How can they say they are providing an education for these children? I’m fighting for a change in policy. I think parents should be signed up to a school, as a family, not children treated separately. Once the child is in a school the other children should go with them.

“It’s appalling to be splitting up families like this.”

Places at the Kingmoor schools, and Stanwix, have been under pressure since the closure of Belah School in 2008. Council officials said then that fewer places were needed because birth rates were falling.

But parents argue that the closure has led to a huge squeeze on places and that housing developments at Belah and Etterby are pushing numbers up even more.

They are also angry that children living in other parts of the city are getting places at Stanwix school.

Amy’s situation was caused by her moving house, from “a few doors” along from Stanwix school, to Caird Avenue, in Belah, because her landlord sold the house.

“It wasn’t our choice,” she said.

“Lucy suffers from a learning disability – she has a rare chromosome disorder which means she has learning difficulties, problems with her legs and hips and she can’t walk very far.

“I put in a full explanation of all this in the covering letter about why Ellie needed to go to that school – which she was put in by the local authority because of her situation.

“I think it’s disgusting that they haven’t taken it into account.”

Kathryn Erskine, 28, of Deerpark Road, is in a similar situation.

Her son Kian, five, goes to Stanwix. Four-year-old sister Caitlin has been offered a place at Kingmoor.

“We contacted the council and all they will say is we have to appeal,” she said.

“We want our children at the same school. I can’t drive so can’t get to both schools and be in two places at once.”

Amy said there were four children at Stanwix whose siblings have offered places elsewhere. She plans to lodge her appeal with the council today and said the mums would hopefully work together.

“The only way we’ll change things is if we do,” she added,

She said Stanwix School had been very supportive but were unable to do anything as ‘their hands are tied.”

“The council is giving planning permission for more homes – the Spice Enterprise came down at the weekend and it’s being turned into homes – but there aren’t the school places,” she said.

“The schools are being suffocated.”

Belah councillor Alan Toole said he was “very unhappy” with the situation.

He said the squeeze on school places stemmed from the closure of Belah, something he had been against.

“They are extending Kingmoor by 15 places but will that be enough? I don’t think so,” he said.

“I don’t think the problem will go away. We’ve got new housing at the Spice Enterprise and in Etterby. I don’t know what effect that will have.”

Mr Toole said he had offered to speak for Amy at the appeal and had referred her case to the county council’s assistant director of Children’s Services, Caroline Sutton.

Kuldip McMullan, Stanwix head teacher, was unable to comment but said the school did not allocate places itself. “Everything has to go through the county council admissions process,” she said.

A spokesman for the county council said they were unable to comment on individual school applications but tried, where possible, to get children into their first choice school.

“For the very small minority who don’t get a place at their preferred choice parents have the right of appeal to an independent panel, which allows the individual or family’s personal circumstances to be considered by the independent panel,” he said.

“The system for allocating school places prioritises children living in the catchment area but depending on the number of children in their particular year group applying for their catchment school, there might be places remaining for out of catchment children.”

The county council last year pledged to add 176 extra places in reception classes across Carlisle this September after GP figures showed 150 more places would be needed by 2014.

They are building four extra classrooms at Kingmoor but Stanwix is landlocked and unable to expand.

Have your say

lola - it was originally thought that kian was put in stanwix due to catment but we found it was oversubcription thus realistically means placing caitlan,too(not nesessarily die to the tight rules. this teo years policy states catchment are given priority over out-of catchment siblings - but it was done previously - that all siblings were given priority over catchment and the catchment ppl complained they weren't getting in ,so the policy was changed,thus creating this! kathryn and the other mums cant possibly be expected to split their children- one has to get to rockliffe with one and stanwix with two! a simple number shuffle would have sorted at least the problem for thse families - 37 kids without siblings got in to reception at stanwix this year - if it had been these siblings and 33 catchment would that not have been fair? bearing in mind kingmoor is no different a distance probably and no strain as only one child.siblings grow up together thru their schooling as well as at home theres so many great events to be involved in and be proud of themselves. It really is such a mess now, its been left so long - the ostrich's really need to get their heads from the sand an act fast x join the campaign, get involved help us get our school,stop the overcrowding and endless battle to get your child into a sch, its a complicated issue and many of the details are hidden as ppl arent talking but it is changing more are becoming aware and are prepared to sort things out for the children of carlisle xx

Posted by sort this mess now on 20 May 2012 at 20:32

Appologies then kathryn, I was under the impression that you were origionally in the Stanwix catchment area. In that case then your situation is absolutely awful and I can totally see why you would be angry. I hope the council take notice as this is just not fair for you poor parents. x

Posted by Lola on 17 May 2012 at 19:25

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