760 pupils miss out on school choice

Vikki Burgan, of Millhouses, with her sons Samuel (right), aged four, and Joshua, aged six.
Vikki Burgan, of Millhouses, with her sons Samuel (right), aged four, and Joshua, aged six.
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More than 760 children have been refused places at their first choice primary school for September as Sheffield struggles to cope with a continuing baby boom.

Six city primaries have even been unable to find places for youngsters living in their catchment areas – Dobcroft Infant and Dore, Oughtibridge, Greystones, Hucklow and Netherthorpe primaries.

Other children have been turned away from schools where their brothers or sisters have places, giving parents major transport headaches.

More than 6,230 four-year-olds are seeking school places for the next academic year, an increase of more than 100 on the 2013 figure.

Pupil numbers have been growing steadily since 2002.

Over recent years the city has created more than 2,500 extra school places in response.

But the battle to get a first choice primary school place is getting tougher – this year’s figure of 764 refusals is up from 689 last year.

The problem is mirrored in the secondary sector too – 569 pupils failed to get their favoured school, up from 466 last year.

But only one secondary has been forced to turn away catchment children – Fir Vale Academy, where 51 pupils are having to look elsewhere.

One disappointed couple are Vikki and Chris Burgan, who already have their six-year-old son Joshua at Dobcroft Infants at Millhouses.

Hopes of getting a place there for four-year-old Samuel were dashed when allocations were made – although the couple intend to appeal.

“We have heard there are 55 children on the waiting list and we are currently eighth,” said Vikki at her home in Springfield Road.

“It is our nearest school, less than 10 minutes walk, but we are just outside the catchment area. The houses opposite us are in it, and so are ones just up the road.

“I am training to be a teacher and I’d heard there could be a problem next year as there was going to be a really big year group – but that this year with a sibling there already, we’d be fine.”

Samuel has been offered a place at Nether Edge Primary and Vikki said getting both sons to school on time would be a real problem.

“I asked the authority what I should do, as surely at least one of the boys will end up being late every day, and I was told to consider the option of breakfast clubs at the schools, so giving them longer extended days,” she added.

A council spokeswoman said the percentage of children getting one of their top three primary places had only fallen slightly to 95.8 per cent, despite the increasing numbers.

“Those pupils who were not allocated a place at one of their preferences have been allocated an alternative school. This will be their catchment school if they have not applied for it and there are still places available, or the nearest school with places available,” she added.

In secondary schools, 97 per cent were allocated one of their top three choices, unchanged from the previous year.

Appeals hearings are already under way and will continue until July.

Meanwhile work to expand the number of primary places is still continuing, with expansion plans prepared for schools in population hot spots including Greystones, Darnall, Tinsley, Crosspool, Firth Park and Wybourn.