Parents warned over school choice bids

Solicitor James Moore questioned councils approach to placing requests
Solicitor James Moore questioned councils approach to placing requests

A lawyer has warned parents making school placing requests could be missing out because of questionable tactics by education bosses.

James Moore’s comments came after North Lanarkshire Council suffered a series of legal defeats at the hands of parents.

The education authority was taken to court after refusing requests for places by families living outside the school catchment area.

Motherwell-based Mr Moore is concerned that the council wants to use classrooms as general purpose areas in an attempt to show that a school is full to capacity and can’t accept placing requests.

Mr Moore said he has acted for parents in cases involving Cambusnethan Primary School in Wishaw and Ladywell Primary in Motherwell.

He explained: “Last year the council refused placing requests for Cambusnethan on the basis that it had re-categorised a classroom as a library, but the sheriff held that the room, which had been used as a classroom for at least eight years, should have been classified as a classroom and not a general purpose area.

“The ruling went in the favour of three parents.”

Mr Moore said a similar situation arose at the school this summer, with the council arguing it needed to re-designate a classroom in order to achieve the required number of general purpose rooms.

However, investigation revealed the school gym which is classed as a general purpose area had been left out of the calculation.

The council then withdrew its opposition to the appeal by three sets of parents who will have their placing requests granted.

Mr Moore said: “These are technical issues and most people who have an initial appeal turned down won’t fight it in a court. However, parents need to know about the tactics being used by the council when dealing with placing requests.”

Councillor Frank McNally, the council’s education convener, denied such “tactics” were being used. He said: “We are happy to accept placing requests at any school where there is space and this year we accepted over 950 placing requests. However, our main priority has to be children who live within their catchment area.

“We cannot put further pressures on schools due to placing requests, which could impact on the learning of current or future pupils who live within their catchment area.”

He said a classroom at Cambusnethan had been re-designated due to the “low number” of P1s enrolling.