MP quizzes Government Education Secretary over primary schools admission saga

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PARENTS concerned about the primary school admissions process in Burnley and Padiham have had their concerns voiced by their local MP.

Gordon Birtwistle questioned Education Secretary Michael Gove in the Commons chamber, after being approached by a large number of devastated parents.

Last month, the Express revealed that 161 appeals were placed with Lancashire County Council this year, after Burnley parents did not get offered the school of their choice for their children.

To date, more than 120 have not been allowed, and some are still yet to be heard. The last appeal hearing will take place on September 11th.

Mr Birtwistle said: “I have had an unprecedented number of concerned parents contact me recently because they have been unable to secure a suitable school place for their child.

“I have previously written to the Department for Education about this matter but was unsatisfied by their response.

“The early years in education are so important and finding the right primary school is priority for most parents.

“Thankfully the Education Secretary seemed to realise that this is an urgent issue and he has agreed to meet with me. “Hopefully we will be able to find a suitable solution for the families of Burnley before the school term gets too far underway.”

For one Padiham mum, who was offered a place at her first choice school at the 11th hour, the appeals process is “a waste of time and money”.

The mum, who lost her appeal but was placed on the reserve list, said: “The reserve list is the best way to get the school of your choice.

“I was offered a place at another school by the Education Authority but turned it down, and then I received a call to say that a parent who had been offered the school I wanted preferred the school they had offered to me.

“I don’t know how the system works at all but I believe there are parents who had the school I wanted as my first choice as their third choice and they were offered it. This has left a lot of parents upset and confused and they shouldn’t have to go through this.”

While Lancashire County Council have said they do understand the stress that parents are going through, they have also had to adhere to strict laws on infant class sizes.

Lynn Mappin, head of pupil places at Lancashire County Council, said: “We understand this is a stressful time for parents, and panels do their best to ease the process.

“However, it is important to remember that there are strict laws on infant class sizes, which affect how flexible the independent panel can be.”

Mr Birtwistle is happy to support any parent who is struggling to find a school for their child. Drop into his office, on St James’s Row, for more information.