Has Wanstead got a ‘schools black hole’?

Parents of young children living in central Wanstead believe a “schools black hole” has developed, with their children not being able to get school places at any of the area’s four primaries.

Children living in Nightingale Lane, Grosvenor Road, The Avenue, and Leicester Road are among those who have not got places in Wanstead primaries, instead being told they must go to other schools in the borough. Several children have been told they will have to go to Barkingside, including twins in one family – though they have been placed at two different schools.

Wansteadium reader Emily O’Grady writes:

“Like all parents we want the best education for our children, so when it came to choosing a school for our daughter we listed six local schools in the community where we have put down roots. In order to provide wrap-around care we applied for a place at the local breakfast/after-school club affiliated with the nursery my daughter has attended for the past three years.

Then the nightmare began. We were told that the council had allocated our daughter to Mossford Green Primary, which we had never heard of and never considered as it is more than three miles away in Barkingside.

The journey to reach this school involves a 10-minute walk to the station, five tube stops in the opposite direction to our places of work and a further 15-minute walk. Such a journey twice a day is exhausting for any child and seems ridiculous in 21st Century in London. In addition to having a long arduous journey every day, our daughter will be separated from her existing community and we will be unable to use a local breakfast/afterschool club as these do not serve the schools in Barkingside. I am not even clear how we can get her to the school and back – we both work – but this situation means that one of us will probably have to give up our job.

This is a life changing decision for our family and we are not alone. There are numerous other families living in central Wanstead who have not been offered any of their preferred schools, including one family with twins who have been offered two different schools in Barkingside. How is it possible that all these families can effectively fall into a ‘black hole’ where we are out of catchment for every single local school? We are liaising with local MPs and local councillors to explore the possibility of expanding a Wanstead primary school to address this year’s school crisis.”

Emily invites anyone who is in a similar situation to get in touch at wansteadschoolplaces@gmail.com.

24 thoughts on “Has Wanstead got a ‘schools black hole’?”

  1. It has two – a similar situation exists on The Warren Estate too, with children also being allocated to Barkingside schools. I believe the situation is the same on The Firs in South Woodford… Crazy!

  2. That’s what happens when the only schools in central Wanstead (Church School and Our Lady of Lourdes) are Faith schools which are effectively discriminatory (surely illegal?!!).

  3. Yep! Although of course if you live on the Warren estate side of the A12 there’s Aldersbrook but that is fast becoming very popular and no doubt the same will happen there too!

  4. This is what happens when a Government gives parents “Choice” of a school rather than having children go to their local school and hence build a community. I know this from when, as a school governor, we could not get parents involved in school activities because they had no local links with the area. Their children were “bussed in” (or rather driven in by parents clogging up the roads) and developed no link either with the school or the area.

  5. I went to Aldersbrook, started in 1953, My Brother Brian 14 years before me and my sister Audrey 7 years before me, we all loved our time there, just had a look at there web site sill looks like a good school now?

  6. I was informed by the pre-school manager of a nursery in Wanstead that 50% of the children didn’t get ANY of their choice of primary school and like Emily’s daughter are being sent to schools in Barkingside. Jane, not everyone from the Warren Estate side of the A12 has got into Aldersbrook school this year with reports of children not getting in from the Warren Road,/Redbridge Lane West area.

  7. We moved to Snaresbrook last summer from Newham and Redbridge told us not to even bother trying to move our children’s primary school as there were no places at all and very little chance of getting any. We have to travel to West Ham and back each day on the train. We are applying for places but we don’t hold out much hope. The travel is £90 a month which Redbridge will not help with but at least Newham primary schools provide free lunches for all children. Actually we had lots of swimming pools and brilliant playgrounds for our children in Newham too but moved because we needed another bedroom….consider not voting Conservative in the elections this month?

  8. Jane – Nightingale and Aldersbrook schools are both close to central Wanstead. The eligibility criteria of both Our Lady of Lourdes School and Wanstead Church School are published in Redbridge’s guide to the borough’s schools and there is nothing discriminatory about them.

    That said there is a borough-wide problem with school places, especially primary schools. However the Council appears to be largely ignoring the problem.

  9. Roger M – How can you say that Nightingale and Aldersbrook are both close to central Wanstead? If they were, people who lived in ‘central Wanstead’ would be able to get a place at those schools – which they can’t. The only schools with an E11 postcode are faith schools, and therein lies the problem.

  10. If it doesn’t feel right, it often isn’t and I’d urge those who want to challenge this unsatisfactory situation to do just that.

    I’d love to look at school place application fraud in Redbridge, from which I suspect the impact is significant here.

    Cough, cough, Wansteadium; schools forum on Wanstead Talk 🙂

  11. I’m on the side of all those parents who feel that half of the primary school sit in faith schools. If parents want their children to be brought up with a faith-based education then they should pay for it. Everyone else should have access to the facilities within their community.

  12. Unfortunately, Roger whilst WC and OLoL may have carefully worded policies some children in Wanstead are unable to attend their nearest school because they are not practising Christians. If as ValTee suggests children were just allocated a place at their nearest school my children would be given places at WC or OLoL. However, I not prepared to be dishonest about my religious beliefs in order to get my children a place at those schools. I am fortunate that my son got a place at Nightingale in 2011/2 and that was by just 0.1 of a mile! My daughter now has a place based on the sibling policy. However, I have great sympathy for Emily and other parents in the same situation. I live on a road that is @ 1 mile away from Aldersbrook, Nightingale and Snaresbrook. I suspect that very soon it will also become a school black hole for those parents that don’t want to attend a faith school!

  13. I don’t have kids, so this has no effect on me, but I am absolutely 101% opposed to faith schools, period. It is an outrage in a supposedly secular country, that state funded schools can discriminate on grounds of faith. The proliferation in faith schools was turbo charged under the Blair administration, and continued under this one. Time for a new SDP I say. “The Secular Democratic Party”!

  14. Two facts to add to the debate.
    Wanstead church school receives 96% of it’s funding from the local authority i.e. our council tax bills.
    The Church of England London Diocesan Board for Schools policy is encouraging all of its existing schools to only select half of pupils on religious grounds if oversubscribed.

  15. I also feel admissions discrimination by publicly funded faith schools is unacceptable, especially where there is pressure on places overall.

    Looking at Wanstead’s primary schools as a whole, I presume the proportion of all school places that are faith tied, is significantly higher than the proportion of the public overall that practice these religions??

    Don’t know how many classes are in each year intake at WCS or OLOL but I heard Nightingale has 3 x 30 kids at Reception, so assuming the other two have at least as many combined then that could mean 50% of school places are faith based. Can’t be justified, and I’d be surprised if the proportion of all wanstonions turning up at any church on a regular basis is more than 1%.

  16. OLOL has two classes and WH just the one – so the two of them combined are the same size as Nightingale.

    Lack of school places is becoming an increasing issue in Redbridge. If you consider the amount of additional housing that has been built in the past few years, (in particular flats), in the South Woodford and Wanstead area, (in Wanstead it feels like they are squeezing flats in every spare nook and cranny of land!). Yet the number of primary school places in the area has not been increased as far as I am aware.

  17. Anyone who has seen an application form for the faith schools in Wanstead knows the are discriminatory – it might be legal but it’s certainly wrong. I’m paying for these schools through my taxes but my son can’t (realistically) attend. I’m glad to see the fairadmissions initiative, although I’m not able to help you man a stand I’d be happy to sign a petition. I guess action needs to be taken on a national level though, to change the law or funding?

  18. Whilst I do largely agree with the comments about faith schools and believe that local children should be able to attend their local school, the problem in Wanstead is not caused by the faith schools but simply by the fact that there are insufficient school places. It is not correct to say that 50% of the school places are at faith schools as OLOL is two form entry and WC is just one form. It is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of the places at OLOL and WC will be allocated to children from Wanstead (and not elsewhere in the borough as some of the posts above would lead you to believe).

  19. I really like Charlotte’s post – the essence is lack of school places. Given a good architect, the Blake Hall Sports Club site would make a lovely, tree-lined site for a small primary school. Properly laid out, without building on the existing pitches etc, there would be enough space for classrooms, a hall, a pool which could all be used by local residents outside of school hours.

    Maybe the next Wanstead Fringe should have a blue sky ideas session, where people can offer up notions as flaky as mine :o)

    Finally, and offered without comment, here are the origins of the current schools in Wanstead (plus the one which became Snaresbrook Crown Court, the Royal Wanstead School) .. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=42790

  20. Maybe we need to be considering a Free School in Wanstead? It must be worth considering – it seems Nick may have found the site?

  21. Tough one! I think free schools is an idea which looks good on paper, but which has led to problems in the real world. Not long ago, Redbridge chose to create 120 new school places at the Avanti Court school in Barkingside, rather than carry out smaller expansions and new builds distributed across the borough. Who knows how many extra journeys they created with that manoeuvre? In my opinion they should seek Govt money to found a local school, but in reality they’d rather farm the job out to some faceless education business any chance they could.

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