A mother has questioned the morals of the local education authority and called for common sense to prevail after leaving her daughter without a school education.
Louise Wilson works as a teacher at Cavalry Primary School in March, where her eldest two daughters also attend.
Yet her youngest daughter Isla, aged four, was denied the chance to start at the school with her sisters and peers in September, having only been offered a place at Townley Primary School in Christchurch where the family lives.
Now Mrs Wilson is fighting the decision by Cambridgeshire County Council’s admissions team, which has forced her to reduce her working hours as a teacher in an effort to home educate her.
She says a “catalogue of errors” by admissions has also meant both schools missing out on vital pupil funding.
Mrs Wilson said Isla was unable to start at Townley as it does not offer the ‘wrap-around care’ before and after school which the working family relies on.
Her husband, Isla’s father, is unable to help as he had to take work in Azerbaijan after being made redundant twice in quick succession in the UK.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire admissions said Isla does not live within the catchment area for Cavalry, and priority has to be given, by law, to those who do.
But Mrs Wilson said: “When a four-year-old is unable to access education in school because the school in the village fails to meet the needs of working parents and she is declined a space in the only school she could attend purely because of her non-proximity to the school, surely the issue here is greater than a legal one?
“Surely there is a moral obligation to have a system that ensures an equality for all to education that looks beyond just proximity to school, especially in a rural area?
“Isla is too young to understand why all her friends from nursery go to big school and she cannot. She doesn’t understand why her sisters were allowed to go to school but ‘they’ (the school admissions) won’t let her.
“She has asked ‘don’t they like me?’ How do I answer her? How do I stop my heart breaking when I see hers doing the same?”
Mrs Wilson said errors by admissions officials have also impacted on both schools.
She said the authority failed to remove Isla from Townley’s school role, despite Mrs Wilson turning down the place, and as a teacher she was also aware that Cavalry had an unfulfilled place available in the reception class – meaning both schools were one pupil short of capacity for government funding.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council’s admissions team said: “Although Mrs Wilson named Cavalry as her first preference for Isla, the family do not live within its catchment area.
“Priority therefore had to be given by law to those who do. We offered Isla a place at her second preference school, Townley Primary – which is her catchment school – but this was turned down. Mrs Wilson subsequently appealed against this decision, but that appeal was unsuccessful. Isla is currently third on the reserve list for Cavalry, so if a place becomes available we will let Mrs Wilson know immediately.”