PARENTS may take their fight to the government after decisions to give children places at a local school to those further afield over those who live round the corner.
Burpham and Merrow residents hoping to send their children to local George Abbott School were outraged after learning that the Office of Schools Adjudicator changed application criteria a week before the October 22 deadline.
Although the OSA has said this is their final decision and appeal is not an option, parents are taking their fight to a parliamentary ombudsman.
Because taking the OSA to court would involve spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, the parents are preparing to challenge how the decision was made as it failed to follow the proper procedures for the verdict. And if the parliamentary ombudsman thinks that they have a strong enough argument they will be able to order another adjudication.
Matt Furniss, Guildford Borough Councilor for Christchurch, the parents may have a case since: “There was no counter argument”: the OSA only consulted parents from Ripley and a single council officer without notifying other schools or Guildford parents.
Graham Ellwood, Surrey County Councilor for Guildford East, reassured parents that it would still be likely that they would be able to secure places at George Abbott, but reiterated that the decision cannot be reversed this year.
Ellwood is sure that there is a dispute between the decision and county council policy that children living nearer the school should get priority.
He said: “I’m fairly sure that none of the primary schools in my ward will be affected. Both the government, and the OSA as a government body, say that parents must be given a choice,”
He added that when a secondary school in Send closed in 1972, the county council agreed that children from Ripley could go to George Abbot, but this decision was cancelled in 2006.
So far, the petitioners have received 160 signatures from parents at Boxgrove School alone.
After a meeting with concerned parents, Guildford MP Anne Milton has written to the OSA and education secretary Michael Gove on behalf of the parents from Burpham and Merrow to support their campaign.
She wrote: “I am concerned that applications have been made in the past to change the policy in favour of pupils from Ripley but, with no apparent change to circumstance, a different decision has been made on the objection made this year.
“I would be grateful if you could clarify what has changed in comparison to previous years. Local people are very upset; not only about the decision itself but also about the way it was taken. There appears to have been no chance for local parents to make their views known.”