Burnley and Pendle children without a school place 'for over a year'
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Lancashire County Council’s Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali told the latest full council gathering at County Hall that pupils at both primary and secondary level had been affected by what he described as a “serious problem”.
While he thanked council leader Phillippa Williamson and education and skills cabinet member Jayne Rear for working with him and other members to try to resolve the issue, he said that councillors were now “inundated with people turning up at our doorstep asking why they haven’t got a school place – and it has been over 12 months [that] they have been waiting”.
“There is a major crisis and there’s almost an ignorance at certain levels of this organisation, not the political [level]…that [is] ignoring the plight of these kids. It’s not good enough for up to 150 kids…to be sat at home. That’s not just in Burnley and Pendle – there are issues in Chorley [and] Preston.
“We need urgent action…we need these kids in school, otherwise they are going to fall further back,” County Cllr Ali added.
Burnley Central East county councillor Sobia Malik said that time was of the essence to resolve an issue which risked compounding the challenges already faced by children whose education had been disrupted during the pandemic.
“Not only are they going to have to do the learning, they are going to have to catch up and be mentally confident that they can cope with all of these undertakings.
“How are we helping them by being so remiss in addressing such a pressing issue across the county?” County Cllr Malik asked.
County Cllr Williamson told the meeting that there was “political consensus” about the concerns over school places in Lancashire.
“I think we are are all realistic enough to know that we’re not going to be able to resolve every single one of those issues immediately, but there are some steps that we can take – and that we would like to do – to try and resolve those things.
“I also wanted to recognise that officers are doing a huge amount of work themselves – including following up on each and every case individually to make contact to try and ensure that [children’s] education needs – although [they] might not be in school – are being met at this current time.”