Almost 100 children still have no secondary school place, Kingston council admits

Nearly 100 children in the Kingston borough still have no secondary school place for September, according to documents released at a council meeting last Thursday.

Parents of year 6 children found out which secondary school their child had been accepted at on national offer day on March 1, after previously completing forms listing their preferred secondary schools.

Parents and children are not guaranteed an offer for their first choice of school. But this has been the first year since 2011 where there have been unplaced children on national offer day, according to council officer Matthew Paul.

Around 60% of the unplaced children are boys.

The news comes as Kingston council faces a legal obligation to keep a balanced budget and bring spending in line with the £134.749m it receives through the Dedicated Schools Grant.

At a meeting of the council’s Adults and Children’s Committee, Paul said:”I know from personal experience that not receiving an offer of a school place causes considerable anxiety especially for parents who are applying for a place for their first child and I am sorry that parents have to endure that period of anxiety.”

Paul said that the figure of 98 unplaced children (which includes four who unplaced due to late applications)  is so high because it doesn’t take into account offers from private school or academies which have their own admissions procedures.

Some of the unplaced children are private school pupils whose parents have applied to both private and state schools in the borough. Others were unplaced because their parents had not applied to the families nearest school.

Paul said in spite of “all the media attention on the first of March” he was certain that all school children who have applied will be given one by September. He believed that more places would become available once other parents rejected their offers.

But Liberal Democrat councillor Liz Green was concerned that some children in certain areas of the borough will be disadvantaged.

She said: “I am very concerned about the breakdown geographically, because there are two wards that have a lot more unplaced children, which are Norbiton and Coombe Hill.”

Green said she was also worried about the gender breakdown of school places due to only 150 places being available for Coombe Boys school, 30 fewer than last year.

Paul said that in terms of choice, many parents had the option of applying for schools outside the Kingston borough and could have given strong reasons on the application form for why they did not want their child attending their nearest school.

Sharron Sumner, whose son in year 6 did received a place said she had spoken to a large number of parents who did not get places in their nearest schools.

“I just feel its the wrong attitude to say that’s its just potluck to where children get placed,” she told the meeting.

“At what point is money and the council’s failure to manage the education budget more important than children and their ability to go to a school that is close to them?”

Sumner told the Kingston Courier: “It seems absolutely shocking that at this point 98 children have no place but they are being talked about as facts and figures. Their experience is being taken away. They could end up anywhere inside or out of the borough.”

Another parent, Kelly, who did not wish to provide her surname, said the application process was restrictive.

She said: “You are limited to what you can choose. We don’t have enough schools in the borough to make an effective choice.”

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