Children miss out on local primaries

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

PUPILS are being turned away from their local primaries in Sheffield’s south western suburbs - and tough economic times are believed to be a key factor..

Crosspool’s Lydgate Infants is the worst affected with 20 youngsters refused places - but Dore Primary and Totley Primary are also oversubscribed for the next school year .

Education chiefs had anticipated problems at Lydgate due to rising birth rates and had planned for extra demand - but they admit the situation in Dore and Totley has taken them by surprise.

Demand from catchment children this year is far above normal levels - at Lydgate take up normally runs at around 73 per cent - but this year it has rocketed to 93 per cent. Totley expected around 20 applications for its 30 places but has received 36.

“We have no hard evidence but we can only assume that in these tough economic times, fewer families are opting for places in the private sector,” said John Bigley, the city’s principal admissions officer.

As a result this year there were 148 applications for 120 places at Lydgate, compared with the usual average of 117. To cope education chiefs have created 60 extra places at Westways in Crookes and at Hallam Primary in Lodge Moor.

But catchment children turned away from Dore and Totley are set to be allocated places at Low Edges Primary , Lower Meadow Primary at Batemoor and Nether Edge Primary on Abbeydale Road.

There is no room at nearby Bradway Primary – that is already full.

When catchment pupils are refused a place, distance from the school is used as the deciding factor, although pupils with siblings there are given a higher priority .

Admissions chiefs are expecting many of the families affected to go through the independent appeals process, with hearings likely in early June.

Mr Bigley said more than 6,500 children were seeking places for September, the highest number for over a decade.

“The situation in the south west will be a surprise to parents – we didn’t see any point in causing panic in advance of the applications and we aren’t sure it would have led to families making different choices in any event,” he said.

“We didn’t consider expanding Lydgate because physically there is little space and it would have created problems later when those extra children would have been moving to Lydgate Juniors.

“And Lydgate Infants is already the largest infant school in the city.”

Across the city, 350 new places have been created over the last few years to cope with population growth, especially in ‘hot spots’ like Burngreave and Fir Vale.

More places have also been created at Hinde House, Acres Hill in Darnall and Tinsley, while next in line for expansion are schools in Mosborough, Stocksbridge and Bradfield.

Watercliffe Meadow, Netherthorpe and Hucklow primaries are also oversubscribed next year but increased demand at Oughtibridge has been met by a one off expansion programme.