I READ with interest the article on the front of the Ealing Gazette last week with regard to primary school expansions in the borough. As a parent affected by this problem, I thought it would be of interest to represent the facts from the other side of the debate.
Sadly I am one of a significant number of families who has been given a place at Hathaway primary school in Ealing even though I sit within catchment of North Ealing primary. In essence Hathaway primary is 1.5 miles from the majority of these homes via a busy feeder route to the A40, rather than North Ealing at less than 0.5 of a mile. My son Harry currently attends North Ealing nursery in which we as a family have invested much time and commitment.
It saddens me that an area such as Pitshanger which advocates a community ethos of family and stability (and the associated house prices to live in such an area) is no longer able to facilitate parental choice, safety and well being of its most vulnerable residents and ultimately attendance at the local catchment "community" primary school. False hope is given to so many families who invest into the area, purchasing properties within catchment, pay the attributable council tax only to be let down. Instead these children will have to go through an emotional transitional journey not only regarding the physical journey to school, but also taking them out of the community they have grown up in and equally away from many of their natural peers that they have grown up with and formed strong relationships with.
As you reported, the council has put emergency reception classes in place for this school year at some of the expansion schools in order to meet this year's intake needs and equally so as not to disaffect the group of catchment children due to start school in 09/10 who would have a significantly increased chance of getting a place at their catchment primary following expansion over the coming year. North Ealing has made the decision not to implement such an emergency class and therefore more than 20 families (a class size amount) have been offered places at Hathaway. The impact of 20 appeals all with circumstances that warrant admission has to be considered, surely a more proactive approach to maintain the relationships and community that North Ealing stands so strongly for is worthy of consideration in good time?
I am sure that other families with children already at North Ealing would be sympathetic to a little thought out disruption for the coming year in order to facilitate this extra class requirement. I believe that all 20 families will continue to pursue their catchment school over the coming year(s) which will lead to an additional transition and disruption for these children and I am sure additional challenges for the staff at North Ealing to deal with in coming years, having inherited these children.
It is sad the parental choice, safety of these children who already live in the outskirts of a large city, the emotional distress of this journey to Hathaway school and the environmental impact of this 1.5 mile journey (that I will have to make by car), all go against the fundamental ethics of Ealing Council.
There must also be consideration of the siblings that many of these families have who will in coming years secure a place at North Ealing with an older brother or sister attending an out of catchment school.
This scenario would present even greater anxiety with the safety of one or both children becoming a major concern, never mind the logistical challenge each day and the impact on parental allegiance and investable time across two schools. The sense of community and safety, the basis on which many parents locate themselves in this wonderful area, is completely lost through this decision.
I would welcome your consideration of representing this side of the debate and the significant impact the decision made by the council has had on these 20 families,
many of whom already attend North Ealing nursery. Surely there has to be recognition of the impact of sending such a significant number of children to a school outside of this community will have an impact on the ethic upon which the community sells itself. Equally, the continual arrival of families willing to invest into the locality and indeed support continual regeneration based on the school catchment area should be given due consideration because very soon this may not be such a desirable "queen of the suburbs" area to locate ones family given the outrageous schooling situation.
A little creative thinking for this year only would resolve the situation given that the expansion will cover all catchment homes from next year. I look forward to hearing your views on this matter.
DEBBIE ESTENSEN via email