Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Parents fight to halt school catchment injustice

Parents in east Reading with children aged 10 or younger are worried about Wokingham Borough Council's controversial proposals to change the catchment areas for its secondary schools. A group of concerned parents who plan to send their children to their local school, Maiden Erlegh, has begun a co-ordinated campaign to fight the changes.

Their concerns are based on the following issues:

· The proposed new catchment area for Maiden Erlegh would exclude children living in Reading. Children living in the area facing exclusion would therefore be shut out of their local school – an act that amounts to unfair discrimination simply because they live on the wrong side of the border between Wokingham and Reading boroughs drawn up in 1998 when Berkshire County Council was disbanded.

· Every family in the area Wokingham is looking to exclude lives within one mile of Maiden Erlegh, which has been the secondary school serving this community for many years.

· The close proximity to Maiden Erlegh of all the children in east Reading who would be affected is unquestionable; and this means that walking and cycling to school from the area is a simple, safe 15-minute trip which provides all the benefits of a sustainable and healthy lifestyle – a mandatory core priority for any local authority when drawing up catchment areas, according to Point 2.36 of the Department for Education's Schools Admission Code. The Bulmershe School, the alternative proposed by Wokingham, would be about 40 minutes away, compared with 15 to Maiden Erlegh, and getting there would involve crossing over or under the Wokingham-Reading rail line, the A329(M) and several minor roads. Public transport to Bulmershe is not a realistic option and school-run traffic to both schools would be increased along already congested routes if these proposals were to be forced through.

Chris Harding, a resident of Talfourd Avenue and a parent of two children aged 5 and 4, said: “We welcome the opportunity to engage with Wokingham Borough Council and persuade them to rethink their proposals. We are too close to be excluded from Maiden Erlegh and are being denied the opportunity to send our kids to our local school.

“We invite all parents and neighbours to an open drop-in session on Friday 24th September at Park Church on the corner of Palmer Park Avenue and Wokingham Road between 6pm and 9pm. Run by parents for parents, this will be a great opportunity to learn more about what is proposed and discuss the implications for our families.”

Notes to editors

Park Church address – corner of Palmer Park Avenue and Wokingham Road and the parent drop in for more information is on Friday 24th September 6pm-9pm

Parents Campaign website

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