Single mother whose son, four, was placed in a school 20 MILES from her home ‘will be forced to give up her degree studies and go back on benefits’ to get him there every day
- Sian Hemmings is studying for a BA in Social Work with Kingston University
- Her degree requires placements and her long commute last year prompted a move from Bracknell to Guildford with her son Corey, four
- But she’s now been given a school place for Corey back in Bracknell
- She faces giving up her studies to make sure he can get to school each morning
Published: 12:58 BST, 22 April 2017 | Updated: 17:27 BST, 22 April 2017
A single mother is facing giving up her degree in social work after a council mix-up left her four-year-old son with a place in a school nearly 20 miles from their home.
Sian Hemmings is in her third year of a BA in social work with Kingston University, and having spent hours commuting for placements last year, decided to move from her Bracknell home to Guildford this spring.
Having signed for a new home in the Surrey town, she rearranged her son Corey’s school application from Bracknell to Guildford, but was dismayed to find he was assigned a school near their old home despite her studious application.
Sian Hemmings with son Corey, four. She decided she needed to move at the beginning of the year because commuting had taken its strain
Ms Hemmings, 34, told the MailOnline: ‘My last placement was with a charity in Streatham High Road and so it took me two and a half hours each way to commute.
‘That prompted me to move in January, so by February I had signed for a new home in Guildford and told Bracknell Forest and Surrey I wanted to apply for schools in Guildford instead.
‘My application was sent in by February 10 which was ‘in time’. I was told I would hear where he had been allocated on April 18.’
Even though she asked the councils to allocate her a Guildford school, she was still given one nearer to their old home for Corey
Although her application was in time, she was contacted to make a few changes, to make sure she would be applying for Guildford schools and not those in Bracknell.
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The mammoth commute which Ms Hemmings faces everyday, taking her from Guildford to Bracknell, then to another location for her placement, and back
However, she claims no one told her the application would effectively be ‘useless’ because her address was showing up as Bracknell, meaning she was not in a three-mile catchment zone for any of the Guildford schools.
The mother and son are due to move to their new address at the beginning of May, but the application was filed with their current address, not where they would be when he needs to go to school.
She said: ‘When I logged on to find out the allocation, I was really surprised. They had basically just given him any school in Bracknell because I hadn’t applied for one.
‘I would have applied for the local school as it is good if I’d known my application was going to be useless.
‘I’m left with the school no one wanted to apply for in Bracknell.
Ms Hemmings said she had no idea her application was effectively useless because they couldn’t take her new address into account yet
‘They have told me I can go around the schools in Guildford and find a space and then let them know if I get one.’
If she chooses to send Corey to the Bracknell school, she faces a mammoth daily commute, starting in Guildford, travelling 17 miles to Bracknell, before adding another 38 miles to get as far as Streatham, and then turning around and doing it all again in the evening.
The mother-of-one will have to reapply for a place when they move into their home, but she will not get the credit for the previous application being in time.
She slammed the system as being a waste of public money.
Ms Hemmings does have a chance to appeal but will need a solicitor, at a cost that could climb into the thousands of pounds.
She now faces having to give up her last year of study, which will result in her going back on benefits and racking up student debt.
Ms Hemmings slammed the process as a waste of public money, and is left waiting to see where she can get a place in Surrey when she moves in less than two weeks
Her top school choice in Guildford, Burpham Primary, is now oversubscribed and the only two with places in the 2016 intake are around 25 minutes away on the A3.
Nikki Edwards, Bracknell Forest Council’s director of children, young people and learning said: ‘The Department for Education’s (DfE) School Admissions Code states reception year applications must be made to the child’s home local authority. If a child is a Bracknell Forest resident we will process their application for any preferred schools named on the application, regardless of which local authority the school is located in.
‘If the preferred school is outside the home local authority, there is a co-ordinated admissions scheme, set by the DfE, that enables local authorities to share applicants data. The receiving local authority will consider the application in line with their published admissions arrangements and respond to the home local authority.
‘If a resident advises us on their intention to move outside of Bracknell Forest, we recommend they speak to their new local authority to fully understand their procedures and timings. It is not within Bracknell Forest Council’s control to offer an alternative school in another local authority.’
Surrey County Council has been contacted for comment by the MailOnline.