As excited families prepare for their children to start school for the first time next week one little girl’s education is uncertain after she missed out on a place.
The four-year-old from Twickenham failed to get into any of her six preferred primary schools despite her parents following advice to apply to their three closest schools.
The four-year-old’s parents, who wish to remain anonymous, said the admissions criteria rendered the East Twickenham and riverside area of the borough an “educational dead spot”.
Richmond Council offered the girl a school that was not on her list of choices and was 5km away, which he said was ridiculous considering there were five other schools within 1km of their home.
He said: “It’s a long way. We have just said it is ridiculous so turned it down. They say if you turn down the school their obligation is over.
“Term starts soon and we still have no school.”
The council said it could not disclose how many children were still without school places ahead of term starting on Tuesday.
A spokesman said: “Demand for our local primary school places is at an all time high.
“Due to the schools’ popularity, catchment areas are often quite small and it isn’t always possible to guarantee a place at a preferred school. In such instances we always offer an alternative.
“Each year we know that in September there will be some children who don’t take up places in our schools, so we expect that places will become available over the next few weeks and we will continue to keep the family updated.”
The father said 60 per cent of the whole borough’s schools were closer than the alternative offered by the council and part of the problem was that four of five of their closest schools were religious.
He said: “We are not religious and we are not prepared to pretend to be religious. The proportion of religious school here is completely out of proportion.
“From what I can tell is this area along the riverside and East Twickenham which perennially never falls into any because of the position of schools children end up with no place at all.
“We have heard year after year this area is under provided for.
“The council is not actually prepared to do anything. It thinks as long as it’s a minority they don’t care. It’s so frustrating. We are at our wits’ end now."
Jeremy Rodell of Richmond Inclusive Schools Campaign (Risc) said: “Risc is about to launch a major report on primary school offers.
“It will demonstrate clearly how faith-based selection at local primaries means that the choice of state school available to non-churchgoing families is in many cases extremely restricted compared to churchgoing families.
“And it will show how this is limiting people’s ability to secure a reception place a reasonable distance from their home, which is particularly important at primary level.
“There are simple steps church school governing bodies could take to be more community minded in their admissions. This case only underlines the need for them to take action.”
The Fair Admissions Campaign seeks to bring to an end faith selection by state-funded schools across the country.
The group’s spokesman Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE said: “The religiously selective schools in the borough are making problems around the scarcity of school places much worse by turning away children for not being of the ‘right’ religion or denomination, or for being non-religious.
“Faith schools should not privilege their own at the expense of others, but adopt responsibility for the wider well-being of their neighbourhood.
“The borough’s religiously selective schools should all follow in the footsteps of the new St Mary’s Church of England School Primary School opening in Hampton next month, which will not select any pupils by faith.”
- Are you concerned about school places? Leave a comment below or call Clare Buchanan on 020 8744 4275