Boy kept at home in school-place row

PUBLISHED: 10:52 14 November 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

Sarah and Rowan

Sarah and Rowan

A LITTLE boy is being kept out of school because he has been given a place outside the St Albans district and a long way from his home. Rowan Stewart is still attending the playgroup his younger sister goes to because Herts County Council cannot find him

A LITTLE boy is being kept out of school because he has been given a place outside the St Albans district and a long way from his home.

Rowan Stewart is still attending the playgroup his younger sister goes to because Herts County Council cannot find him a place in a suitable school near to his home in School Lane, Bricket Wood.,

Sarah and Ian Stewart had applied to their three closest schools in the St Albans district for a place for Rowan with Mount Pleasant Lane JMI, about one-and-a-half miles from home, their first choice because it was nearest.

But the county council allocated Rowan a place at Berrygrove Primary and Nursery School in Garston after their computerised mapping system showed that it was his closest primary school to walk to

However, the route suggested by the council involves walking through the unlit Bricket Wood and using a troublespot M1 motorway underpass as well as crossing a railway track to reach the school near Garston Station.

Sarah, who would have to take her two-year-old daughter and eight-month-old baby on the walk every day, said she was not prepared to take the risk: "The track through the woods is pitch black by 3pm in the winter and the motorway underpass is constantly plagued by trouble-making lads. I wouldn't even walk my dogs down there let alone make the journey up to four times a day with small kids in tow."

The couple refused Berrygrove in January so the county council offered Rowan a place at Bedmond Village School. But that is nearly a five-mile drive away and Sarah said she could not afford the extra petrol costs: "We'd have to pay about an extra £1,000 a year to get to Bedmond and I wouldn't be back in time to take my two-year-old to her local playgroup."

An appeal for a place at Mount Pleasant Lane School in March was refused and their subsequent invitations to the council to come and assess the safety of the Berrygrove route first hand - a service the county council is obliged to provide - all went unanswered

Sarah said that she felt cheated by the county council: "Everyone says it is a bumper year with lots of children starting school but why should Rowan be the one to miss out just because no one from the education authority would come out and see the unusual circumstances we live in?"

She said they were even considering moving from their house which has been in the family for half-a-century to try to resolve the situation.

A spokesperson from the county council's children, schools and families department, said: "We always advise that a place should be accepted by the time school starts - it's not good for a child to be out of school. Rowan is moving up the continued waiting list for Mount Pleasant and children have been known to get in to their chosen school that way."

She added: "Unfortunately, the choices parents make in October are only a preference and not a guarantee. We accept that Berrygrove is quite a long walk away but all three of Rowan's top-choice schools have been filled by children who are closer to them than he is.

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