7:42am Thursday 26th April 2012
By Jim Jack
Furious parents have been told Otley’s schools are “‘full up” – so they must send their children seven miles away.
Leeds City Council delivered the bombshell to 10 addresses across Otley last week stating that, since no local reception places were left, four-year-olds were being allocated to Ireland Wood Primary School, near Cookridge.
But parents, who are preparing to appeal, have criticised the decision and say it will wreck childcare arrangements and deny children the right to be educated in their own community.
One mother from central Otley, who asked not to be named, said: “We’d applied for three Otley schools but have now been told our son has been assigned to Ireland Wood.
“That’s almost eight miles away. To be sent so far away is just ridiculous, and quite a few families are facing the same impossible situation.
“We’re in a real panic, I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep working if this happens.
“We want our child, who is three at the moment, to be somewhere he knows and where we have support.
“The council needs to put some extra provision in, like mobile classrooms.”
In a joint statement, the town’s three Liberal Democrat councillors, Colin Campbell, Ryk Downes and Graham Kirkland (all Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon), said: “The prospect of four-year-old children being forced to travel away from their family and friends to a school seven miles away is totally unacceptable.
“We have demanded an immediate meeting to discuss the problem. We know that capacity can be found in Otley but the council seems reluctant to pay for extra facilities.”
Otley Town Council leader, councillor John Eveleigh (Lab, Ashfield), said: “I will be pressing for some temporary measures to ensure all the children can be educated within one of the town’s five primary schools.”
MP Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West), meanwhile, condemned Leeds’s “complete lack of forward planning”.
He said: “It is completely unacceptable. The council must come up with a solution.”
Leeds City Council’s director of children’s services, Nigel Richardson, said: “We understand how upsetting it is for families. This year we have 10 children living in the Otley area that we have been unable to place in an Otley primary school at this early stage.
“This is clearly not ideal, so a meeting has been organised for the headteachers from all the Otley primary schools, and local authority representatives, to find a way forward.”
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