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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 May, 2005, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Boy barred from school next door
Liam Mowl
Liam Mowl's mother used to work at St Michael's Primary School
A boy's parents are "very angry" after he was turned down for a primary school next door to their Kent home.

Liam Mowl, who turns four soon, was denied a place at St Michael's Primary School in Tenterden and given one at the infants school about a mile away.

Kent County Council said St Michael's was a Church of England school and Liam's parents did not specify that they wanted a religious education.

The family are appealing and said they had not been aware of the criterion.

'Over subscribed'

Liam's father, Martin Mowl, said they live so close to the school they can "literally go to the top of the garden, lean over the fence, and touch the school building".

Liam's sister went to the school and he also attends a playgroup there.

Mr Mowl confirmed they applied for a place four years ago after Liam was born, as advised by the school.

"But we were told we did not meet the criteria because the school was over subscribed," he said.

"As far as we're concerned we met all the criteria necessary.

The Mowl family have been advised on their right to appeal this decision
Kent County Council

"To be told that we can't go when there's children from further afield coming in just doesn't seem sensible to us. We don't understand the decision at all."

Mr Mowl explained he could not remember if the application form had asked if they wanted a religious education for their son.

"I understand it is a religious school, we want him to go to a religious school, that's why we chose the school."

Dr Ian Craig, from Kent County Council, said: "Liam's parents filled in the normal application form applying for a place at the school, which is over subscribed.

"St Michael's in Tenterden is a church school, and like all other church schools, gives priority to children who want to go to a church school, and they have to identify that on their application form."

School building
The Mowls can look over their garden fence and see the school

A statement from the council added that "the Mowl family have been advised on their right to appeal this decision".

A spokeswoman said the proximity of children to a school was only the fifth most important element in deciding whether they should receive a place.

Other factors considered first include whether the child had specific religious beliefs and whether other siblings were already attending the school.

Liam's mother and father said that whatever happens their son will start his primary schooling in September.

However, they are desperate for him to go to St Michael's and will be making an appeal.


Your comments

The prime purpose of all schools is to educate the child
Trevor, Langford

As a headteacher of 26 years in aided and state schools, sadly I'm bound to observe that many parents state their desires for a religious education for their offspring as a means of extending their choice. My experience shows that often once admission is granted their religious zeal wanes dramatically. We should remember that the prime purpose of all schools is to educate the child, whilst serving the community so that life-long learning is meaningful and successful.
Trevor, Langford

My son's name has been down at our village primary school since he was six months old and at the time I was told that he still would not be guaranteed a place. It seems that children with brothers or sisters still at the school have a higher priority over my son even when the parents have moved home outside the catchment. These parents then drive miles to drop their children at school. The problem is the over subscribed schools are those performing well. This is always going to continue with the publication of school league tables and parents using them to pick the best school for their child. Schools should be forced to make places available for any child living within a reasonable distance of the school.
Matthew, Derbyshire

A lot of problems would be solved if we got rid of the myth of 'parental choice' over schools. The DfES have even taken out adverts in national papers to tell parents about choosing schools. However, it is not practical for parents to have a free choice. Some schools become elitist whist others become sink schools. Distance from home to school should be the only criteria for state schools, except for pupils in exceptional circumstances (e.g. affected by serious bullying, domestic abuse issues etc).
MC, Swansea

And we wonder why the so called 'School Run' exists?
Howard Stimpson, Oxford

I am an ex-school governor and this is not unusual at all. I have heard many cases of people living near schools and not being offered a place. One I know of lived next to the school gate and were refused entry by the LEA. They got a place after a one year long appeal process. This is not confined to faith based schools. People need to read the entry criteria when applying for places. It is most difficult for people who move house at the wrong time, then finding a place can be made more difficult. I think the whole system needs to be reviewed.
Jeff, Herts

The parents should have read the application form a bit more carefully
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, UK

Perhaps the parents should have read the application form a bit more carefully, and been a little more aware of the education system which they are relying upon to educate their son. A religious school is specifically for those who want this type of education for their children - there are plenty more schools for those who are not bothered.
Pauline Fothergill, Halifax, UK

Bureaucracy and red tape at its best.
James, Liverpool, England

Schools, hospitals, doctors, dentists. All over-subscribed. Isn't it time the government paid less attention to league tables and statistics and actually gave taxpayers what they have been paying for?
Shaun Pugh, London

If the school receives even one pound of public money, then it should be required to take pupils from a spectrum of the local catchment area. This should apply to all schools, regardless of their declared religious or gender oriented nature.
Peter Galbavy, London, UK

My family live in Kent and have struggled with school issues. But this is by far the most stupid thing I have heard from the area. If you cannot go to the school next door then there is a major problem. One more reason not to move back to the country of my birth.
Rebecca, The Hague, Netherlands

Children should go to the school that is geographically closest to their home. That is surely the basis of a free, comprehensive education system. The current situation where parents are fighting for places for the school of their choice (whether by faking religious belief or some other method) is insane.
Katie, London

We had the opposite problem. As Catholics, we put our daughter's name down for the nearest Catholic school 2 miles away. However when the time came she was refused a place because of the distance - non-Catholics within a set distance were given preference over Catholics outside that area. The problem with these rules is that they come down to the whim of school governors who are, at the end of the day, unaccountable amateurs.
David, Sunderland, UK




SEE ALSO:
Many fail to get chosen schools
12 Apr 05 |  Education
School choice 'causes distress'
22 Jul 04 |  Education


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