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1,200 school places appeals in Dorset
7:55am Friday 12th October 2012 in Latest
PARENTS lodged 1,200 appeals against school places offered to their children in Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset, latest figures have revealed.
Statistics released by the Department for Education for the academic year 2010/11 reveal the numbers were up in most areas.
But they also showed that more parents were successful in their appeals.
In the Dorset County Council area appeals rose to 734 compared with 523 the previous year but those who won their appeals went up from 259 to 358.
In Poole schools were faced with 278 appeals, 71 more than the year before, but 129 people were successful compared with 81.
In Bournemouth the number of appeals went down slightly from 194 to 171 but 48 were successful compared with 39 in the previous year.
Cllr Toni Coombs, Dorset’s cabinet member for education, said: “Every school will have different reasons as to why they’re over-subscribed. In some areas it’s due to pressure of places, in other areas it’s people coming in during the school term, in other areas it is just because the school is very popular.”
Asked whether she thought parents wrongly believed they could choose their child’s school, she said: “It’s parental preference, not parental choice and we are very clear about making that distinction.
“You can state up to three preferences but where there is pressure on places, unless you prefer your catchment school, you will be further down the pecking order.
“We certainly promote local schools for local children but government policy is that parents should be able to have more of a choice if possible and that good schools should be able to expand and meet that choice.
“But school reputations can rise and fall very quickly, they can easily turn on a change of a head teacher, and what if you invest and expand in a popular school that then becomes unpopular?
“My personal view is that every school should be a good school and that parents should want their children to go to their local school because they are as good as every other.”
Cllr Tony Woodcock represents the Parkstone area where Courthill school consistently turns away pupils living in catchment.
He has suggested a free school could be built on the Fourways site to cater for the demand in the area.
“People want a good school in their local community,” he said. “I do think we desperately need an extra school in the area and we are working on getting one.”
And Cllr Ron Whittaker, who represents Muscliff where both Muscliff and Epiphany are over-subscribed, said: “The problem is that many appeals are for reception places and many of those will fail because schools are simply not allowed to have more than 30 children in reception classes.
“There is a real issue in Muscliff and in Southbourne and we need to find a way of creating places where parents need them.”
Parent Tom Payne, who lodged an appeal with Bournemouth Borough Council after his daughter was refused a school place at their catchment school, blamed “bad planning.”
He turned down the place offered to him by Bournemouth council and has sent his daughter to a school in Hampshire instead.
He said: “We did appeal but we didn’t hold out much hope and we were unsuccessful, as were all the families appealing for Muscliff.
“I think the education authority needs to plan better for the number of children coming through.”
Michelle and Stuart Amey lodged an appeal with Dorset County Council after their son, George, was refused a place at Mudeford Infants School despite his brother being a pupil there.
Michelle, who was undergoing treatment for cancer at the time, said: “Different schools have different rules and it would be a lot easier if they all did the same thing.”