The blog I’m about to write is not about food nor fun, it’s about family and in particular my son’s education. Recently, like many parents around England and Wales, we received the information about which school our son would be attending this September. For us it wasn’t good news. I have been given my fourth choice of a school that is 4.5 miles drive to the school. In total for me it would mean 18 miles of driving a day! Instead of being able to send my son to the local primary school which is half a mile as the crow flies from our front door.
So for anyone who is reading this in another country we have a system, ‘apparently’ to be able to pick a perfect school for our children. Sadly, gone are the days of just popping down the road to your local primary school. Now we, as parents, have to go and look at the local schools in our area. Then, in this part of the country we have to pick four schools which we would like our child to attend. However, there is no guarantee you will get any of the places you have chosen. (As parents in England we have nothing better to do than go and look at schools! Grrr!)
Once you have picked the four you would like your child to go to then you fill in a form and the schools that you have chosen then decide if you are eligible to receive a place at that school. It is based on different criteria. Great, you are probably thinking if you are not living in England. If you are living here then you probably realise my pain because it would work if there were enough places and enough schools.
In this part of the country, I feel, the system is extremely unfair and to be honest, I have always felt this way. I know I have never done anything about it before and yes, I am in it now. But also, I have a platform on which to tell my story or as my husband would say, ‘stand on my soapbox’. So I’ve got my soapbox out and I have faith that writing articles like these will help to make a change.
We live in the county of Essex which is just outside of the M25 and this part of the world is a commuter haven for London workers. So we have lots of people living here who have jobs in the city. It’s a busy place and it’s getting busier. Now, if I was working in the local authority or government I would be thinking how can I help to improve the lives of people who live in my town.
Oh no, no improvements necessary in broken and bashed Britain. Last year they built yet another housing estate behind where we live. Instead of a new school or a doctor’s surgery, both of which are desperately needed, they have built us a bus stop at the end of our road. Although, we live in commuter land, no one seems to get on the bus as there are only two buses a day that go through the bus stop anyway. On the council website it clearly states that any companies building new houses must provide either a school, a doctors surgery or a bus stop. A BUS STOP! If you were running a business that wanted to make huge profits which one would you pick. Hmm, I wonder.
Therefore, the greed of a large corporation wanting to build houses means I now have to pay money to drive my son to school everyday. In Switzerland, if there are not enough school places then they build an extra classroom onto the already existing local school. Although, another mum pointed out that many parents may not want their child to go to a large school so this would not be a good idea. To me, building classrooms and new schools when you build a housing estate is basic maths.
The whole system of picking a school is just ridiculous. It was thought up by the Blair government and hasn’t gone away. I feel, the Blair government thought it would help the schools become enterprising and competitive. School should not be about enterprise nor have any competition. It should be about providing children with a safe, working environment in which to learn. The local school should be able to teach children without interference from the government. Apart from when they need another classroom or new school built.
My local MP Eric Pickles certainly didn’t care when I wrote to him and told him that I had been given a school that was so far from my front door. I was told by his secretary that he would soon be retiring, poor sod, probably on some ridiculously high pension the tax payers will be paying for no doubt and that the local authority would deal with our appeal.
Now we have to wait until June for the local authority to decide whether we can have a place at our local school. We are on the waiting lists for our other chosen schools. We are number 7 for the nearest school to our front door and number 27 on the list for the school which is five minutes further down the road. When we were looking at the waiting lists for the local schools in our area my husband noted that there were a lot of children on the waiting list. If there were that many children on a waiting list then why not just build a new school or two, or at least a new classroom or two!
Although, there is not much point in looking on the waiting list because these are subject to change as well. We have appealed but there is a 4% chance that we will get our first choice of school. So it’s all up in the air at the moment. I think the reason we got our fourth choice is because it was under subscribed. There were a couple of schools in this area that were not filled so everyone who didn’t get a place in any of their four choices went to these schools. Now other parents like me have to drive their child miles to take them to a school they didn’t want in the first place.
Last year there were 15 children who didn’t get school places and they were going to be sent to a school in another district. Thankfully, a school opened an extra classroom for these children. When this school asked for planning permission to build an extra classroom they were turned down by the council. The council has decided to build more houses on land close to the school with no extra facilities that I’m aware of being put into place to cope with the number of adults and children moving to the area.
In June there is a snap election and our current prime minister, Theresa May, has been reported to say in the Evening Standard if the Conservatives win the election they will cut funding to schools by up to 50%. Well, that’s one vote that party have lost as cuts like this will affect my family for the next 18 – 25 years. As a country we should not even be talking about cutting funding to schools. Instead we should be investing in the future of our children. We have a growing population and the people in the population need houses but they also need schools and a fantastic infrastructure to help support them in their daily lives.
To the large corporation making huge profits by all means build these houses but cut the people living in these towns a bit of slack. Remember to build schools and doctors surgery’s that will help them to live happy and healthy lives. Otherwise there will be no one to sell these houses to. I feel large corporations need to start listening to the population and we have amazing platforms that enable us to tell our stories. So let’s start speaking and I have faith in time change will happen.