Parents furious about change to school admissions

Wanstead parents can't get their children into their local school because of Redbridge Council's sibling priority rule.

Mother-of-two Emma Shepherd-Mallinson said she is not able to get admission for her younger daughter to Aldersbrook Primary, despite her older daughter attending it, as they live 1.3 miles away from the school. - Credit: Google Maps

Wanstead parents who have no community schools nearby have called into question the council's admissions process which favours families living within a mile of a school.

Starting in the 2020 school year, Redbridge Council changed its sibling priority rule.

If a family lives more than a mile outside of a school, their younger children do not automatically qualify for admission there even if their older siblings attend that same school.

Aldersbrook Primary is the closest community school to families who live on the Warren Estate, the residential streets surrounding Warren Road north of Wanstead Park.

Mother-of-two Emma Shepherd-Mallinson moved to Langley Drive just after the policy was put in place but said she was not aware of it and claimed that neither was the parent support adviser at Aldersbrook at the time.

Her eldest daughter attends the Harpenden Road school but Emma said she is not able to get admission for her younger daughter as they live 1.3 miles away from it.

She said: "There are no community schools within a mile of where we live so this policy doesn't make any sense."

The schools' adjudicator partially upheld the council's policy, which aims to encourage nearby residents to walk or cycle to school, following a parent objection in July.

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Emma said the policy will have the opposite effect for her now.

She said: "Instead of cycling to one school we will now have to drive to two for the next four years. 

"We're incredibly stressed by this and our daughters don't understand why they are being split up.

"Why didn't the council make every effort to engage with parents about this significant change?"

The council does not accept Wanstead Park as an acceptable route to and from schools.

The council does not have Wanstead Park as an acceptable route to and from schools, affecting families on the Warren Estate who want their children to attend nearby Aldersbrook Primary School. - Credit: Roy Chacko

The council claims it advertised the change on Facebook and Twitter but the Recorder could not find any evidence of this and the council was not able to provide examples of where the policy was shared on social media.

Wanstead Park pedestrian and cycling sign.

The sibling priority rule aims to encourage nearby residents to walk or cycle to school. - Credit: Roy Chacko

A spokesperson for the authority said the consultation for the sibling distance proposal was open for six weeks as part of the admission arrangements for the 2020/21 year.

"As part of the consultation, the admission authority must consult with parents of children between the ages of two to 18.

"Community schools in Redbridge were also notified of the consultation."

The Recorder spoke to two senior staff members at Aldersbrook Primary and both were unaware of the policy change before it was approved.

The council does not accept Wanstead Park as an acceptable route to and from schools.

MP John Cryer, who represents Leyton and Wanstead, said he has sympathy for the issues raised around sibling priority and the use of public spaces to walk to nearby schools and was hoping the council would change its policy.

He said: "I have raised this with the council and I hope to hear from them soon. I hope they will consider changing their policy as they want to encourage walking and cycling over car usage."

Another neighbouring family, who asked not to be named, had moved before the policy was put in place but were also unaware of it.

Their youngest child does not have a place at Nightingale Primary School, in Ashbourne Avenue, despite his two older siblings attending there and it being the closest school to where they live.

They said: "This is completely unfair. We bought our house and moved before this change was made and our new address is still in Wanstead.

"Why does it apply to those with siblings already in school and to those who had already moved before it was even consulted on?

“We simply cannot do two school runs and we can’t just move again. Our children should be in one school altogether. To split them up is just heartbreaking.”

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