A MOTHER has taken the drastic decision to split up her family because of the stress of having her two children at different schools.
After six months of seeing her six-year-old daughter taken to and from school by taxi, Jane Harding is leaving Highcliffe and taking her children back to their former home town in Kent.
They have made the difficult decision to live apart from her husband Greg, a marine engineer, who works in Dorset.
Jane, who works as a nurse, said she could no longer cope with the stress of having children in schools miles apart.
When the family moved to Highcliffe last October for Greg’s work, 10-year-old daughter Katie was given a Year 6 place at New Milton Junior School – 3.5miles to the east of their home – while Gemma was given a Year 2 place at Burton Primary School – more than four miles west.
As Jane was not physically able to get both children to their different schools, Dorset County Council said it would provide a taxi for Gemma. Staff said they could not provide this service for the older child because she was attending a school in Hampshire.
But the arrangement has been fraught with problems. Jane said Gemma hated going in the taxi and became withdrawn. She was also returned home by taxi before her mother could dash back from New Milton Junior School, which meant she was left sitting with a stranger waiting for her mother to return.
“Naively I had hoped to get them in the same school but they said that was impossible,” said Jane. “That’s fine, I understand that but I never thought I would have to put my six-year-old in a taxi when she doesn’t know the area and is going to a completely new school.”
• We try our best
A Dorset County Council spokesman said they could not comment on individual cases but provided this statement: “As part of our admissions code, we have an in-year transfer policy for children who either move school during a school year or do not apply for a school place in time.
“By law we are not allowed to hold places at a school for possible in-year transfer applicants and, although parents may express a preference, there is no guarantee that a place at their preferred, or indeed their catchment, school will be available.
“When we are unable to place a child at their preferred or catchment school, alternative offers are made based on other preferences the family may have made or another appropriate school.
“If the catchment or the nearest alternative school with places is over two miles away from their home and the child is in reception to Year 4, then the county council is responsible for providing transport.
“This may be a pass for a public bus service, a seat on a school bus or a dedicated taxi service. The type of transport offered is based on the location and best value for the council.
“We always try our best to place children together but in areas where there are pressures on school places, such as Christchurch, this is not always possible.”