Parents warned out of catchment requests will fail

Leigh Malcolm with daughter Ellie Fleming (5), Steven Raeburn with daughter Jessica Raeburn (5) and Lorraine Milne with son Logan Milne (5) at Pirniehall. Picture: Greg Macvean
Leigh Malcolm with daughter Ellie Fleming (5), Steven Raeburn with daughter Jessica Raeburn (5) and Lorraine Milne with son Logan Milne (5) at Pirniehall. Picture: Greg Macvean
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PARENTS in Edinburgh are to be warned they have almost no chance of getting children into anything other than their local primary school under a city-wide crackdown on non-
catchment P1 applications.

Information leaflets distributed to hundreds of parents who want to enrol youngsters at non-catchment primaries will ram home the message that youngsters are only eligible for places at catchment schools.

And residents determined to apply elsewhere will be told siblings face being split up as full-to-bursting primaries reject P1 applications even though an older brother or sister is enrolled.

Comment: Education bosses have a headache

Education chiefs have published the leaflet as part of a drive aimed at emphasising the educational and family benefits of registering children at local primary schools amid double-digit rises in P1 rolls across Edinburgh.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Less and less out-of-catchment requests are being granted due to increased space pressures and parents need to be aware of the risks associated with making such requests. I’d encourage them to think carefully before making an out-of-catchment request, and ask that they look at their local school and support their local community.”

The warning comes as the number of Edinburgh parents appealing against P1 placing request refusals remains close to seven-year highs, with 261 new cases filed this year and 139 rejected. And several primary schools across the city – from Buckstone and Cramond to St Ninian’s and Wardie – have been the subject of multiple appeals after non-catchment requests were refused.

The council’s “local school, local community” drive has been welcomed by some parents, who said there were huge benefits in successive family generations and siblings attending the same school.

Former Pirniehall Primary pupil Michelle McDonald, 33, a mother-of-five from Pilton whose children are also registered at the north Edinburgh school, said: “My kids are doing really well and they’re really happy. It was exciting for my two eldest girls to come here knowing I came here and that they were going to the same school mum went to – having someone in the family who went there makes the change from home to school easier.”

But others said the city’s school admissions system was unfair. Kathryn Murray, 36, who appealed to Edinburgh Sheriff Court after her son, Jayden, five, was refused a place at St Cuthbert’s Primary even though his brothers go there, said: “The whole situation has been an absolute nightmare – it was such a long-winded saga and should have been much simpler.

“I was seriously stressed at the time – they didn’t take account of personal circumstances. If the system is being run by the council, how can it be fair?”

As demand pressures on the Capital’s most popular schools continue to build, legal experts have announced they are to provide tailored advice to parents bidding to choose where they enrol their children.

Nina Taylor, of law firm Lindsays’ Edinburgh office, said: “The issues of placing requests and catchment areas are thorny ones, and while not generally involving court proceedings, many solicitors are increasingly seeing clients who seek guidance through what can be a stressful and complex process.”

Opposition leaders called on education chiefs to ensure that advice given to parents remains “measured” and “objective”.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, education spokesman for the city’s Liberal Democrats, said: “I welcome giving parents as much information as possible so that they have the facts on which they can judge whether it’s worth looking at an out-of-catchment request. As long as the tone is objective and informative, that’s the approach we would think of as sensible.”

Primary schools will open their doors tomorrow to parents of pre-school age children.

CASE STUDY

FOR Steven Raeburn, 27, sending his five-year-old daughter, Jessica, to the same local primary school he went to was a no-brainer.

Stephen, who has lived in Muirhouse all his life and attended Pirniehall Primary from 1991 to 1998, said it was “reassuring” for his daughter to talk to him about what to expect.

He said: “It’s the local community, the same faces - Pirniehall is fun and friendly.

“I’ve been through the experience and I know it’s a good school. For new kids coming into P1, it’s daunting – but I think giving them that reassurance that a parent went there makes it a bit easier.”

And with his fiancée, Sarah, 24, only weeks away from giving birth to a baby boy, the family link with Pirniehall is set to be strengthened.

“I definitely want my son to go to Pirniehall,” said Steven. “I don’t know what it is about dads and sons, but you want your son to follow in your footsteps.”

THE RULES

• All parents must provide proof of residency for a catchment place when they register their child for school.

• Your child is only entitled to a place in the primary school where they attend nursery if you live in the catchment area.

• Where a denominational Roman Catholic school is oversubscribed, priority will be given to catchment baptised Roman Catholics.

• If your placing request is successful for one child, this does not guarantee that requests for younger children will be successful.

• This could mean that your younger children would attend a different school to their older brother or sister – would you be able to manage the school run to two different schools?