The government’s Schools Minister Nick Gibb is proposing changes in schools allocation, which would mean siblings would be given places at the same school to prevent parents having to make more than one journey on the school run.
The Daily Mail reports that, under current guidelines, parents can apply for their children to attend a local school provided they live within the catchment area for the school.
Local authorities have to filter out applications if a school is oversubscribed, however – meaning parents may not receive their first or even second choice of school if a school is popular.
In some cases, this may mean one child or both children having to travel miles away from home to attend school, rather than go to their local school.
Mr Gibb wants to make the sibling rule mandatory, so that local authorities would be obliged to offer places at the same school to siblings.
The Home Office is also looking into how much of a draw Britain’s free state school system is for migrants coming to the UK to settle. In some areas, schools are heavily oversubscribed as the local population increases.
However, local councils have to give priority to special needs and “looked after” children before other children – including children who may already have a sibling at a local school.
Other selection criteria for schools may include the distance from the child’s home to school, whether they go to church and if the child’s parents work at the school.
Some churches have reported an increase in their congregation if the church is near to a popular local school.
Mr Gibb said that after hearing from his own constituents and from other MPs about problems faced by parents whose children attend different schools miles apart, he would like “to ease the stresses and problems that families face in juggling child care with their working lives”.
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gibb said:
“If you have two young children, one goes into reception and one is in year three and they are at different schools, it is a nightmare for them.
“I think it should be a requirement – as long as you live within the catchment area and one of your children is at the school already – that there should be a right for your next child to go to that school,” he added.
The problem particularly affects younger children attending primary school, who cannot travel far to school by themselves, as older children can. At some schools, the gates are locked before registration, meaning parents have to rush to get their children to separate schools.
Mr Gibb said:
“You can’t leave a seven-year-old standing out on the street – and then you have to get to the other school before registration closes; so that could be a 15-minute window and it takes 20 or 30 minutes to travel.”
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