Frustration for family over schools rejection

A family has been left frustrated after a Morpeth First School pupil missed out on getting a place at one of the town's middle schools.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 1st April 2017, 8:55 am
Updated Saturday, 8th April 2017, 9:25 pm
Charlotte Stuarts parents are appealing after applications for Newminster and Chantry Middle Schools and Technology Colleges were turned down. Picture by Jane Coltman

Vikki and Dan Stuart moved back to the town in 2015 after living in Dubai for eight years as Mr Stuart, a pilot, got a job based at Newcastle Airport.

Mrs Stuart called Northumberland County Council in the spring of that year to discuss school places for her daughter Charlotte and son Joshua.

Vikki Stuart with her daughter Charlotte and son Josh. Picture by Jane Coltman

Sign up to our daily newsletter

She claims she sent an email containing the relevant information to a member of the education team at County Hall, but she was later told by the local authority that it did not have such an email and there were no places for her children in September 2015.

She successfully appealed to get them into the school at Goosehill in November 2015, but this has had a knock-on effect for Charlotte because the nine-year-old will have been at Morpeth First School for less than two years when she leaves in the summer.

One of the priority criteria for The Three Rivers Learning Trust, which considers applications for Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Technology Colleges, if applications for its schools exceed the admission number is that children must spend a minimum of two full academic years at a feeder first school.

The application for Charlotte to go to Newminster, and the second choice one for Chantry, have both been turned down. Her parents are appealing the decision.

Vikki Stuart with her daughter Charlotte and son Josh. Picture by Jane Coltman

Mrs Stuart said: “When I emailed the member of the education team, there was no bounce back or notification error so I presumed it went through ok, but after chasing it up I was told that my email could not be found and I had to go through the appeal process to get my children into Morpeth First School.

“I didn’t know at the time about the learning trust’s two-year feeder school policy, so it’s really frustrating to find out now that our application for Charlotte has been turned down because of what happened in 2015 through no fault of our own.

“But if there were enough middle school places for families living in Morpeth, as there should be, there wouldn’t be a problem.

“Joshua will meet the criteria when he leaves Morpeth First School next year, so I’m faced with having to take my children to two different schools in two different areas. Also, Charlotte will be away from the friends she has made.”

Simon Taylor, executive headteacher of The Three Rivers Learning Trust, said the trust has sympathy with the Stuart’s position.

He added: “We wish that we could provide places for all families living in the Morpeth catchment area, as well as the pupils already in our schools as they journey through the Morpeth Partnership.

“Unfortunately, there are more applications than places available and that’s why we have priority criteria in place.

“However, the process for the next academic year is not over yet and I would advise parents who are concerned to submit an appeal and they will have the opportunity to state their case to an independent panel.

“There is a history of parents getting a place for their child at their preferred school through this method. Parents need certainty and so we’re working with the county council to help ensure the process is carried out as promptly as possible.”

A county council spokeswoman said: “We don’t comment on individual cases.

“The Three Rivers Learning Trust is a group of academies and they have their own admissions criteria separate from those of the local authority.”