Andrea Barlow: Siblings must be guaranteed place

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My parents have a shoebox full of photos that tell the story of the school life my sister and I shared.

These gap-toothed, wonky fringed snapshots of everything from the neatly posed “official” photo to egg and spoon triumphs chart our early life together.

I’ve always looked forward to building my own gallery based on my sons’ journeys through school. I’d expected, as we sent our older son to his local catchment school, that his wee brother would follow in his footsteps. But this is no longer a certainty.

Our local school, Towerbank, is bursting at the seams. It needs to slim down. So the catchment is being redrawn. After talking to the community the council has proposed four options for the changed catchment. Only one of the four guarantees a place for younger siblings pushed out of catchment.

This means there’s a good chance that my sons will not go to the same school. They will not, after all, get to share the same story. It’s the same for a number of other families. For most of us, one or two of the four options mean we remain in catchment, the others mean we’re out. We can’t gamble with our families, so we’re all backing Option four – a sibling guarantee.

Why is it so important to me that my children go to the same school, beyond the sentimentality of childhood photographs? There are two main reasons; logistics and wellbeing. Two children, same or similar start times, schools significant distances apart. No workable solutions offered to do the impossible and deliver them both on time. Two sets of parents’ evenings, school fairs, sports days. The necessity of driving between schools opposed to biking along a safe beach route to one. Less practical, but perhaps more important, emotional wellbeing – of my younger son, in keeping him in the community he has grown up in, a familiar school with faces he knows and a big brother to keep an eye on him – of my older son, in keeping him at the school he is thriving in, with his friends around him, and giving him the chance to be “the big brother” – and of our family as a whole – in sustaining the relationships we have built at the school gates.

Everyone I’ve spoken to has seen this as a no-brainer. People unaffected by the changes have been supportive and can see the common sense of keeping brothers and sisters together; that it should be the first thought in a review. The geography involved means this option won’t suit everyone in our community, but it’s the only one my or similarly affected families can support. It’s the only one that keeps our families together.

The Towerbank catchment review period closes on June 22.

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• Author Andrea Barlow is a Towerbank Primary School parent