Goring mum’s school ‘nightmare’

W01042H11 WH SCHOOL GT 31.12.10.'' Gemma Markham with Sophia , Brandon and Kitty .......W01042H11.
W01042H11 WH SCHOOL GT 31.12.10.'' Gemma Markham with Sophia , Brandon and Kitty .......W01042H11.

WHEN five-year-old Sophia finished nursery, her mum expected her to join the school just round the corner.

But, because of a postal mix-up, Gemma Markham, of Juno Close, Goring, was told her daughter would have to start school nearly three miles away, without her friends.

Gemma expected Sophia to start this September at West Park School, in Marlborough Road, which is where her nine-year-old son Brandon goes.

But in July this year, when she had received no news of her daughter starting at the school, she became concerned and contacted the pupil admissions office at West Sussex County Council.

She was told the enrolment forms needed for Sophia to start at West Park had been sent to the family’s old address, which was on their database from when Brandon started school four years ago.

By the time Gemma had contacted them, the deadline for enrolment had passed and she was told Sophia would have to attend Hawthorns First School, in Poplar Road, Durrington.

Right next door

Gemma said: “There are people who don’t live in the area who go to the school, yet we live next door and my daughter has not been given a place.

“All of her friends on the street have started going to West Park and she has grown up with them.

“It doesn’t seem right that she shouldn’t be able to go to school with her friends.”

Single-mum Gemma refused the place at Hawthorns and has been fighting the decision ever since, but has been told an official appeal could last until February, which means Sophia will start school six months late.

Education or job

If she loses, Gemma will have to take Brandon, Sophia and two-year-old Kitty, who is looked after by a child-minder during the day, to three different places before her 9am start at her job at Shoe Zone, in Montague Street.

She said this would not be possible and, because of the reduced working hours it would lead to, she would lose her tax credits.

“I’ve worked at my job for six years, but if I don’t get the tax credits, I would be better off on benefits, which I don’t want to go on.”

She added: “I feel like I’m being made to choose between my children’s education and my job.”

A spokeswoman for West Sussex County Council said the council was unable to provide a comment until the appeal was concluded.