Some children in Tower Hamlets are facing the disappointment of not getting into their local primary schools as the result of a new Pan-London co-ordinated admissions system which it is claimed gives pupils who live farther away priority.
Parents hoping their children would be accepted into Chisenhale Community Primary School in Bow have been shocked at the number of children who have been refused entry. They cite as evidence that only four of the 20 children attending a nearby nursery were eventually given a place.
The parents are complaining that Tower Hamlets Council changed its primary school admissions policies last year without effectively reporting it and consulting with them.
They have formed a campaigning group “ADMIT – Local Children to Local Schools in Tower Hamlets” and produced a YouTube video to accompany a petition to right what they see as an injustice to their children’s future education.
Edward Snooks, Vice-Chair of Governors at Chisenhale Primary School, is very concerned about what has happened to the school: “The new admissions policy has had unforeseen consequences for our community,” he said.
“The lack of a school to the east of our catchment area, with so much new housing being built there, has meant that children living in that area now have priority for places at Chisenhale, over children living next door to the school. So our school will no longer be serving our local community, with these children being sent to schools further away.”
Labour Councillor for Tower Hamlets, Joshua Peck, said Tower Hamlets’ primary and secondary schools are successful, but the council has been racing to keep up with the lack of school places.
He attributes this to what he called “strange decisions” such as building a new town hall and selling off land and buildings which could of been used for new schools.
“The council has not been able to keep up with the demand for new school places,” he said. “For this reason the council has had to change the policy and move children around and make it fairer, but this policy has failed”.
Peck also said that the parents feel put down by the council. In order to try and change their decision, Councillor Peck said Tower Hamlets residents need to be very clear and contact their councillors and the borough’s Mayor.
Residents have also been urged to sign an E-Petition that will be given to Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.
Tower Hamlets Council said: “93 per cent of children starting primary school in September have gained a place at one of their top three school choices in Tower Hamlets under the Pan-London Co-ordinated Admissions Scheme. From over 3300 applications received, 84 per cent of families secured a place at their first choice school. The percentage of successful first choices means that Tower Hamlets is well above the London average for the third year running.”
The council admits to being under pressure to provide more school places. Councillor Oliur Rahman, cabinet member for Children’s Services said: “We have already created an additional 2000 places in the last two years and further plans are being worked on to ensure that as many children as possible are able to access a local school place.”
Tower Hamlets says it has published Tower Hamlets Community Primary Schools Admissions Policy for 2013/14 described as an “Equal Chance System for Tower Hamlets children and families” online and did carry out a consultation exercise between 16 December 2011 and 10 March 2012.
A pdf document that can be downloaded by parents states: “Some of the school catchment area boundaries cover parts of the neighbouring boroughs. If you live in Hackney or the City of London and your home address is in one of the school catchment areas your child will have the same priority as children resident in Tower Hamlets.”
Mayor Lutfur Rahman has said the existing system “aims to provide as many families as possible with access to a local school place. There is a national need for more school places and we are working hard to ensure there are places for all our children to have access to high quality education.”