Schoolboy faces daily 12-mile round trip on four buses to attend high school

Date published: 21 June 2018

Daniel Hollinshead is the only child at his primary school who will not be attending the closest secondary school to his Littleborough home, despite living in the catchment area.

After an unsuccessful appeal, Daniel is the only child at Holy Trinity not to receive a place at Wardle Academy, 1.9 miles away from his home.

His family also applied for Hollingworth Academy and Todmorden High School, but were unsuccessful in receiving a place.

Instead, Daniel now faces catching four buses each to day to attend school at Kingsway High, some six-miles away.

His mum, Claire Hollinshead, said: “Daniel is now the only child at Holy Trinity to not get a place in Wardle. The catchment area as it stands this year for Wardle was 1.9 miles; we live 1.9 miles away from the school. We presented evidence of the effect it is having on our child at the appeal for a place, but we didn’t win.

“Daniel has been referred for early intervention counselling now as he can’t go to school with his peers. The mental issues this has caused for him and all the family is huge.

“There are proposals now for a new high school to be built on the back of this. However for us, no-one at any point has taken into account the affect this has on children, ours especially, as he is now having treatment for it. Nevertheless, this isn’t classed enough to warrant a space close to home, or to consider he is the only child in his small school to have to travel six miles to school alone, having never done it before.

“I informed the panel that my child felt the school didn’t like him, after he was taken for a taster day in year five. A whole day encouraged by the school so that children would want to go to there. Daniel was one of these children and asked we send him there. They knew that places would be tight, as they have offered 250 places instead of 240, but they still invited a whole class to view that school, leaving one child without a place.”

Daniel has been on Wardle’s waiting list since 1 March, being in fourth, fifth, first and tenth in the list since then.

Claire added: “We were told that Wardle when turned into an academy changed the allocation rules, if they followed the same process as the council had, Daniel would have had a place, so would others, this was confirmed at our appeal hearing after the school initially denied it.

"I was also contacted by the school four weeks before I knew about my appeal date, to be told that we wouldn’t win our appeal, and we didn’t. Eight children have won, my son has now gone from ninth to first on the waiting list, so it may seem that the eight children before him were successful, something we find odd.

“After speaking to the school, they increased their intake to 250 at the start of the year to allow for the school place issue. I have been told, however, they do not need to stay at 250, they can drop to their official 240 places, meaning we would need 19 children to leave in order for Daniel to have a place, a child who was number one on the waiting list in March.

“For parents who are in such a harsh position the whole process has been difficult and the lack of help and understanding has been tremendous.

“I am astounded that with test results and letters from Daniel’s current school supporting his deterioration in school and his referral for stress, this isn’t enough to get a place in a school while in the admission radius.”

Graham Wright, Chief Executive Officer of the Wardle Trust, said: “Wardle Academy was asked to consider places for 397 children. Our admission limit is 240. We did offer 250 places as a one-off despite being already full because we could see that the demand for places significantly outweighed the number available and we felt that, in some small way, this would help some parents who had just missed out. Currently, we have 58 parents who have asked to go on the waiting list and I have represented the school at 28 admission appeals so far this month.

“Despite what has been suggested, our 2018 Admissions Policy falls in line with the DfE Code of Practice. It went out to formal consultation in 2016 and uses an appropriate measure of distance (safe walking distance from home to school). There are different methods of calculation that will affect a minority of parents differently. The important factor is that everyone, without exception, must be considered by the same method. Regardless of method used, the sad outcome is that of the 397 applications considered, 147 parents will still not be offered a place.

“I cannot comment on this case, other than to state that if the application had not been dealt with appropriately it would have come out during the appeals process. Appeal hearings are organised on our behalf by the Local Authority who engage people independent of the school to hear the reasons as to why unsuccessful children should be offered a place. It follows a set process and, as a school, we are bound by the outcome of their decision.

“As the school’s representative at appeals, the system does not allow me to say that this is a very strong case, and we would like to offer the parent a place, although I often wish it would.

“Like many schools, Wardle wants to offer places to every child who wants to come to us, but both the lack of space and the statutory legislation that binds us prevents this from happening.

“We are looking at ways in which we can help to work with others to reduce this problem, particularly for parents in the Littleborough area. Sadly, this problem is going to become increasingly acute over the next few years as the demand for places grows and many more parents with deserving cases are going to be in this position.”

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