Village children may lose out on local primary school places
Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
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Time is running out to avoid a repeat of children born and raised in a Bedfordshire village being told no place is available at the local primary school, a parent has warned.
A working group has been set up to review the situation, according to Langford resident Joe Henley.
Presenting a petition of more than 400 signatures to Central Bedfordshire Council’s executive, he described how progress is painfully slow.
“The Langford Village Academy campaign began in April when my wife and I were staggered to find that our son hadn’t been allocated a place at this school, despite being born in and living in Langford,” he explained.
“He was also declined a place at our second and third primary school choices Raynsford Academy at Henlow and Clifton All Saints Academy.
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“All three schools are hopelessly oversubscribed and the situation in Langford is only going to get worse.
“Our local school and those in the surrounding villages have to take on two further year groups on sites which will currently remain the same size.
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“A snap decision was made by the Bedfordshire Schools Trust (BEST), which runs the village academy, to reduce the intake from 45 to 30 this year.
“In Langford, two new year groups in the same number of classrooms meant fewer children could be admitted in reception.
“Five children living in Langford weren’t allocated a place at the local academy in April. But local housing development continues to run rampant.
“A working group has formed around this issue, which mobilises CBC, BEST and the parish council, with myself representing the parent community.
“Time is being wasted, and there’s not time to waste.”
Applications for next year open in September, added Mr Henley, who called for the school to be expanded or a supplementary site provided.
“This is no longer about our child or our family. This is about the future of school places in our village, and those that surround us.
“Next year we know at least 37 children will apply for the 30 places in reception at Langford Village Academy.
“We ask the executive to support our group and a petition which received 430 signatures in five weeks.”
Conservative Leighton Buzzard South councillor Amanda Dodwell, deputy executive member for families, education and children, replied: “I understand how strongly you feel as in many cases families want their children to go to school in their village.
“I also understand not being given your first choice this April was stressful and upsetting.
“I’m glad that all five children have been given the places they hoped for without having to go to appeal.
“The reduction in pupils being admitted at Langford Village Academy is part of a wider plan for Shefford, Stotfold and the surrounding areas within CBC’s Schools for the Future programme.
“Our pupil place planning for the area for the next academic year didn’t require any extra places to be secured and this proved to be correct.
"The local authority is responsible for commissioning the required number of school places for each area,
“If the pupil admission number for Langford had expanded to 60 it would have had to have been reduced elsewhere.
“As this school is an academy the local authority cannot enforce pupil admission numbers. BEST agreed the revised figure, as did the regional schools commissioner.
“This was subsequently approved by the Department for Education. From the school’s perspective an intake of 45 is an awkward number.”