Children left with no school to go as school place crisis bites
Children have been left without a place at a primary school as the borough's education crisis begins to bite.
Sutton is facing unprecedented pressure on places in schools and for the first time six children hoping to start primary school in September have been left without a place.
Those families now face an anxious wait to see if they will be placed at 16 vacant spaces currently at Sutton primaries liley to be a considerable distance from their homes.
They may head into private education to free up a spot in a school near them or face the prospect of paying to go private or even taking on home schooling.
All parents of children due to start primary school in the autumn were asked to make six choices ranked in order of preference before Sutton Council allocated places while working with neighbouring councils where appropriate.
Children's primary school places were revealed last week and while 84 per cent of pupils got their first choice - one of the highest rates in London - 98 children were given a place at a school their parents did not rank in their top six choices and six children were not given an offer at all.
A population boom means councils across the country have been placed under pressure for school places.
This is particularly acute in Sutton due to a number of factors, including a large influx of people moving to the borough because of its good schools. Bandon Hill, The Avenue, Amy Johnson and St Mary's primary schools have all been expanded in the last 12 months with temporary 'bulge' classes added elsewhere - but more work will need to be done with forecasts predicting a 3,000 place shortfall at the borough's primary schools by 2016.
Sue Smith, of the Sutton Teachers' Committee, said: "We know it isn't just a Sutton issue but a national issue but I believe Sutton Council has been working very hard to work with schools and provide the places needed.
"In a way Sutton's success has also been it's downfall in this respect in that it has very good schools and it's slightly cheaper to live in than central London.
"The council's officers have been working very hard, some schools have already expanded and there is a plan to build a new school."
Among those not to get a school place was young Cheam boy Hector Hill. His parents Kate and David chose for him to go to Cuddington Croft in Surrey as it is one of their nearest schools and was the only school that claimed it could cater for his severe sesame allergy by being entirely nut and seed free.
Although Cuddington Croft is in Surrey, Mr and Mrs Hills live in Sutton meaning Sutton Council oversaw the process and worked with Surrey Council.
However, when Mrs Hill went online on offer day to find out which school Hector would be going to she was confronted with a blank page.
She said: "It didn't say 'you've not been offered a place' or anything like that, it was just blank.
"The hope is that enough people will move out of the area or go for private education instead. We can't home school him.
"We chose Cuddington Croft as its prospectus said it is sesame free but then we were told that was misleading and no school could promise that.
"[Surrey Council] actually said the school would have to change its policy rather than offer us a place there."
A Surrey Council spokesman said: "We do expect schools to do everything possible to minimise the risks of allergens and to have staff trained in understanding each child’s problem so they can recognise a reaction and deal with it, such as with an epipen.
"We expect any mainstream school therefore to be able to meet Hector’s needs and so cannot consider his allergy as a reason to give him exceptional priority to this school."
A Sutton Council spokesman said: "Last year, we received 2590 applications and this year we have received 2642. We currently have 16 vacancies.
"We have provided an additional two classes for September 2014 to provide for migration to the borough.
"As can be seen by the vacancies, we will be able to allocate the unplaced children but we are hoping to provide schools nearer to their home address than currently. We are liaising with other authorities to determine their vacancies as often in these cases, Sutton residents live nearer to schools in other authorities.
"Parents can appeal and all processes are on the website. Some children may have been allocated places if parents had chosen to select schools nearer to their home address.
"However, Sutton has an obligation to provide a school place for each resident child in Sutton and we will meet this requirement."
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