"It's not fair on the kids" - Calls for more school places in Northumberland

Parents who take their children out of class without permission will face higher fines
-Credit: (Image: PA)

A campaigner is putting Northumberland County Council under pressure to boost school capacity in the south east of the county.

Labour Party campaigner Vicky Oakley is calling on the council's Conservative administration to intervene after children in villages such as Pegswood and Ellington were unable to attend their first choice schools. Ashington Academy has also implemented a new admissions system that prioritises pupils living closer to the school, putting youngsters from certain villages at a disadvantage.

However, the county council's cabinet member for education has pointed out that the vast majority of pupils do get into their first choice school. The figure of more than 97% is one of the best records in the country.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), Mrs Oakley said: "Because there isn't enough school places at Ashington, children are being shipped off into schools across the county. Children in Pegswood are having to go to Blyth and Bedlington.

"It means parents don't want to send their kids to Pegswood Primary School because they know they won't get into Ashington High School. It would be a huge shame if the school had to close.

"The same is happening in Ellington and Stakeford. Children shouldn't be shipped off wherever, away from their friends - it's really upsetting for parents and students.

"We need a system where we have more school places. It's a lottery on where you live - I think we've got a school crisis in south east Northumberland.

"It's not fair on the kids. I understand there would be costs involved, but where would it end? Communities like Pegswood are going to die a death because people won't want to live there because their kids can't get into schools."

Responding to Mrs Oakley's concerns, cabinet member for education at Northumberland County Council Guy Renner-Thompson defended the council's record.

He said: "If a school is a maintained school admissions policies are set by the council, but academies set their own. There have been numerous examples around the county with academy admission policies not fitting in with the traditional policy of getting local people into their local school.

"The council has been successful working with a number of academies such as the Cheviot Trust in Morpeth, which has changed their policy to prioritise local children rather than other schools in the same trust. We will work with academies to find a solution for everyone.

"In terms of capacity, we have our school building programme which has built new schools across the county. In terms of Pegswood, it is close to Morpeth and we are increasing the capacity at King Edward IV School there.

"In Northumberland, 97.71% of all children get into their first choice school I know it is still a big impact on local families when they don't.

"Individual cases have come to me and in around half of those, we manage to find a solution and sort it out. In the other half, it's simply not possible.

"It's something we are aware of, but we don't have all the powers."