Parents win battle over school veto

PARENTS of children at a Gateshead school are celebrating after their council was forced to overturn a decision on the number of pupils that can join its classes next year.

PARENTS of children at a Gateshead school are celebrating after their council was forced to overturn a decision on the number of pupils that can join its classes next year.

The Office of the Schools Adjudicator yesterday announced the admission number at Winlaton West Lane Primary School for September 2008 was to be 45, 15 more than the number set by Gateshead Council earlier this summer.

The council set the number at 30 in an effort to reduce surplus school places across the Gateshead area.

Chairman of the Friends of West Lane, Suzanne Collins, who originally lodged the objection against Gateshead Council slashing the school’s admission number said she was delighted at the result.

She said: “It’s absolutely fantastic, because although we did agree the previous admission number of 60 was too high, 30 just didn’t give us any opportunity to cater for those who may have short-term needs, such as children in foster care, or to allow local parents the right to choose the best school for their child.”

Suzanne, who has a son and daughter at the school, aged eight and nine respectively, said that it was what she described as Gateshead Council’s “blinkered” attitude to the issue that made her lodge a formal objection to the plan.

She explained: “I had been in meetings with the council as a parent and had felt that they just didn’t listen.

“But it was when this decision was announced to cut the admission number down to 30 that I really got angry, because it felt like we’d been railroaded, and that the consultation process had just come to an abrupt end.

“The decision had been made, and it was then I decided to fight and I’m really pleased I did because the result seems to prove that parent power gets results.”

The school’s head teacher Angela Exley was equally pleased at the adjudication, which was down to teamwork. She said: “This was about making sure that if parents had opted for our school, we would be able to give them the place they wanted.

“We worked really hard as a team along with parents, governors, teachers and friends and it just goes to show that if you work together you achieve more.” The determination published by the schools adjudicator June Brown said: “It is my view that an admission number of 30 is likely to restrict parental access to the school and I am not persuaded that the local authority’s grounds for so doing are sufficiently strong for me to be able to support them at this time.

“I therefore concluded the admission number for Winlaton West Lane Primary School for September 2008 shall be 45.”

David Mitchell, director of learning and schools at Gateshead Council said he accepted the adjudicator’s decision and stressed that the matter may be reviewed at some point in the future.

He said: “We accept the ruling of the adjudicator on the matter.

“We acknowledge that the adjudicator was anxious not to restrict in any way parental preference to accessing this school.

Nevertheless the council has a duty to remove excess surplus places and we may well have to review the provision of places in the Winlaton and Blaydon area.”

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