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Haringey consider new school admission rules
Parents who move into temporary rented accommodation in order to secure places at Muswell Hill schools will no longer be able to "play the system" under new rules being considered by Haringey's education chiefs.

George Meehan, Haringey's executive member for education, announced the shake-up of schools admissions at a meeting of the Muswell Hill Schools Crisis Group last week when he faced dozens of angry parents whose children have been denied places at the area's oversubscribed primaries.

Mr Meehan said: "We hear that people are renting flats near schools and then moving out once a place for their child has been secured, which is wrong. We want them to be living there when they get the offer and when they take up the place, which means at least a year."

Mr Meehan also agreed to consider calls for the sibling rule to be changed so that parents who move out of the area should not be automatically entitled to another place at the school for their younger children.

The move to tighten up admissions was backed by local Labour MP Barbara Roche who told the meeting: "People have to feel confident about the system - more could be done."

Haringey has already announced plans to expand Coldfall School in time for September 2005. However, some parents of children already at the school are opposed to the plans and a small number voiced their concerns at the meeting. Mr Meehan reassured them that a full consultation process would take place.

He told the gathering of 70 concerned parents at the Methodist Church in Pages Lane last week (July 14): "Clearly we do recognise the need for more school places in the Muswell Hill area...We have had discussions with a number of schools and we intend to consult about expanding Coldfall to provide an extra reception class and also a parallel Year One class. It could be challenged and we could end up losing the proposals."

The council is also expanding Tetherdown School in time for the September 2007 intake, but this could not be brought forward due to land and construction difficulties, he added.

Mr Meehan explained that Haringey intended to examine the lack of school places in some depth. He said: "We are going to look very carefully at the issue and project ahead five to ten years." Population increases and new housing development would all be considered, he insisted.

He went on: "We want to map very carefully where there should be school expansion. However, finding the appropriate sites is extremely difficult. We also have 200 spare places in primary schools elsewhere in the borough."

Alison Holt, one of the leaders of the campaign, told the meeting: "We are pleased about the expansion of Coldfall in 2005, but it is only a first step. This will not solve the crisis and does nothing for this year's intake. The benefits of the extra class at Coldfall will be limited. 48 family homes are being built in the second phase of the Coppetts Wood development near the school.

"Why can't we expand Tetherdown to three forms instead of two? And we must continue to look at the possibility of expanding Muswell Hill and Rhodes Avenue Schools. These problems can be resolved with the right amount of political will and imagination. It could also provide a chance to make each school a better environment for all pupils. The government wants more choice for parents - we believe that Haringey has to do more.

Other local education authorities, such as Barnet, do make this work."
Liz Crane, who found the group after her daughter Sophie was denied a place at her three nearest schools, added: "On its own, expanding Coldfall isn't going to be the answer. All schools in the area, including church schools like St James' s, should be considered for expansion.”

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MHSCG – Parents fighting for places in Muswell Hill primary schools