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Tuesday, 24 April, 2001, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
School places found for pupils
Sarah Robertson
Sarah Robertson had been missing out on lessons
Places have been found for all the pupils in Northamptonshire who were without schools to attend.

There had been 21 pupils in Wellingborough forced to stay at home because of a lack of school places.

The local education authority now says that three pupils have been admitted to schools - and the remaining 18 are to be offered places to attend local schools next week.

Peter Bone
Peter Bone says the shortage of places has not been resolved

But it has also emerged that the 1m provided by the government to create 150 extra places for September at a community school is not new money.

A local authority spokesperson said that this allocation had been made last year - and that in terms of the shortage of places, "money was not the issue, but school capacity".

While the local authority says that it has enough places for pupils transferring from primary schools, a spokesperson said there could be further difficulties ahead if there are extra children moving into the area.

Local Conservatives earlier predicted that there would be more problems over shortages of places in the future.

Val Robertson
Val Robertson had worried about her daughter's loss of education

The prospective parliamentary candidate for the Conservatives, Peter Bone, said that insufficient provision had been made to meet the rising population in the area.

Mr Bone, who blames the lack of places on the county council's closure of a secondary school, said that housing developments will mean that over-subscribed local schools will be unable to provide enough places.

Short-term

Attacking the Labour-run local authority, he said that such short-term measures will not be enough to replace the demolished John Lea school.

This seat is one of the most marginal in the country - and the question of finding school places sparked a political row.

Labour councillors pointed to the "foundation" status of three local secondary schools, which are free from local authority control and which cannot be required to take the extra pupils.

Although in resolving this dispute, it has been the foundation schools which have offered places, after negotiations with the local authority.

The government has also pointed out that permission to close the school was given by the previous Conservative education secretary.

But the opposition parties said that attempts to blame school selection policies and the "foundation" status of three schools had been a smokescreen.

Local Conservative MEP, Chris Heaton-Harris, called for urgent action to address the problems caused by a "massive over-subscription" of local secondary schools.

And he plans to complain about pupils being denied school places in the European Parliament next month.

Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat MEP, has announced plans to investigate whether he can take Northamptonshire County Council to court over the lack of school places.

The lack of places had been a great worry for parents who were concerned that their children were missing out on education.

One of the pupils denied a place - 15-year-old Sarah Robertson - had not been at school since Christmas.

Her mother, Val Robertson, said: "I phoned all three schools in Wellingborough and all three said they were full.

"The education officials said they couldn't do much about it because they can't get involved because it is up to the schools who they take in."

Conscious of exams looming, Sarah said: "I am not getting the education I deserve."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Giles Latcham
"Behind the scenes there are discussions involving the headteachers of all three schools"
The BBC's Jane Warr
"The Department for Education describes the situation as unacceptable"
Jim Wilcockson, step-father to one of the pupils
"I cannot understand where they are all coming from"
Olwen Loud, Northamptonshire Labour councillor
"By our reckoning their are 25 places currently available in the Wellingborough secondary schools"
See also:

14 Jul 00 | Education
18 Apr 00 | Education
03 Sep 99 | Education
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


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