A Mansfield family left with children split in separate schools due to an “unfair policy” has been awarded compensation.
Vivienne Davidson, aged 43, a teacher at Kirkby Woodhouse Primary School said she was left with a “logistical nightmare” after a Nottinghamshire County Council policy which prioritised places for brothers and sisters at schools was altered – a change she says they were unaware of at the time.
The policy, adopted in 2016, has since changed.
But now, the Conservative-led council has agreed to pay two families £500 a year, including the Davidsons, because their children missed out on places at their preferred schools while the old policy was still in place.
The decision came after an investigation was made by the local government and social care ombudsman – an independent person charged with making decisions on the behaviour of councils.
Vivienne’s son Daniel, now aged 10, attends the school where his mum works.
However his six-year-old twin sisters Holly and Hannah attend at Abbey Primary School, Forest Town.
Vivienne said: “The money is to cover the extra fuel cost we face as the schools are about eight miles apart.
“The cash is not the point it is a gesture – we are grateful it was found in our favour.
“Over the last two years it has been a nightmare to be in the right place at the right time and we have been reliant on family and friends to help us out.
“Initially, it was quite traumatic for the girls they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t go to school with their big brother.”
Michael King, ombudsman, said: “The changes the council made to its admissions arrangements have had a significant impact on daily life for these two families, which could last until the older siblings have moved on to senior school.
“In cases like this we would normally ask the council to offer a fresh appeal to the families. However, because the school has now converted to an academy, neither the council nor we have any authority over its admissions arrangements. I am therefore pleased the council has accepted my recommendations, and hope these will go some way to help these families with their arrangements over the coming years.”
Vivienne has said the problems won’t stop at primary school as the children could now be put in separate secondary schools.
The council has said it respects the ombudsman’s decision and there was no desire to cause distress, but there are always going to be some families left dissatisfied.
Councillor Philip Owen, chairman of the council’s children and young people’s committee said: “It is unfortunately the nature of the school admissions process that there are always going to be some families and children left dissatisfied whichever policy an authority adopts. By restoring priority in the oversubscription criteria for children outside a schools’ catchment area who have siblings already at a particular school, this could mean children who live nearer and perhaps only just outside that school’s catchment may have to go a much longer distance.”