‘No sticking plaster solution’ for parents campaigning to get their children into local school

Round House campaigners present their petition to the county council

Round House campaigners present their petition to the county council - Credit: Archant

A group of parents fighting to win places for their children at a St Neots’ primary school have presented a petition to Cambridgeshire County Council.

Members of the Round House Capacity Campaign attended a meeting of the children and young persons committee at Shire Hall on Monday to present the case for six children who will be starting school in September.

The campaign was launched in January when parents, who live on Love’s Farm, became concerned about availability, and in April, 18 families were told their children would not be offered places.

Some of those children have since been offered entry or taken up offers at other schools.

Emma Stevens, who presented the case on behalf of the parents, told the committee: “Love’s Farm has a unique geography. This has given the development a clear identity of its own and an incredibly strong sense of community. This is about community cohesion not about distance to alternative schools or choosing a better school.”

The campaigners have been told there is not enough time or money to find a solution in time for September, but they have vowed to continue their fight and make an appeal.

“We understand that time and money may be objections to finding a solution for this year, but officers have been aware and discussing this issue of capacity since February 2016 and we have been in correspondence with officers on this issue since January 2017. Love’s Farm is yet to be completed and new houses are still being built. Children should not be penalised for poor planning on population growth forecasts or redirection of funds.”

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Fellow campaigner Danielle Parkin, added: “They have agreed that mistakes were made with the forecasting and we are now talking about six, possibly seven, children so surely they can find a temporary solution for these number.”

Councillor Julie Wisson, who sits on the children’s and young persons committee, and was at Monday’s meeting, acknowledged the hard work by the parents but said an announcement would be made in the next 10 days that provided a solution for September 2018.

“For me the most frustrating thing is that Love’s Farm was created with this ethos on families and the environment and children walking to school, and the school is not big enough to serve the community.”

Cllr Wisson did confirm that researchers would be re-forcasting Love’s Farm and other areas where there are new development to make sure there are adequate places for children at primary schools.”

“We need to get this right and find out what went wrong in the case of Love’s Farm, but what we can’t do is use a sticking plaster to solve the problem. A lot of work is already going on to find a solution to expand the Round House, which could mean expanding the school upwards.”