Northampton family fear £400 bill to send son to school after he missed out on first choice

The Severn family, with son Alidin, 11. Dad Tim Severn says his son has been unfairly treated after the youngster was refused a place at Duston School.
The Severn family, with son Alidin, 11. Dad Tim Severn says his son has been unfairly treated after the youngster was refused a place at Duston School.

A furious parent from Northampton has says he will have to fork out £400 a month to get his 11-year-old son to and from school after the youngster was refused a place in Duston.

Businessman Tim Severn is criticising Northamptonshire County Council’s admissions policy after the authority said his son Alidin could not go from Millway Primary School up to Duston School when he reaches year seven in September, along with the rest of his peer group.

The family applied for a school place at Duston later than they should because, having only returned from living in Dubai two years ago, were not aware of “how much procedures had changed”.

It meant Alidin was allocated a place at Kingsthorpe College instead, which Mr Severn claims is a 3.6-mile walk away across a number of busy roads.

But to add insult to injury the parent says his son will also not be eligible for free travel to and from school, usually afforded to those who live more than three miles away from their allocated school, as Kingsthorpe College is deemed to be 2.6 miles from the family home in Far End, St James, using the council’s “straight line” measurement.

Mr Severn says the decision leaves the family, with a £400 a month taxi bill as he works in Stourbridge and cannot drive the youngster to school himself.

His wife does not drive and there is no direct bus route that would avoid the youngster having to change services in the centre of town.

“That journey is just not safe for an 11-year-old to make on his own,” Mr Severn said. “The hardship is that we simply cannot take him to and from school and a taxi would be too expensive. You would be looking at £10 a day, £50 a week, £400 a month.

“I pay £1,000 a month in rent, so we only just make ends meet at home.”

Mr Severn says the family only moved to Northampton from Dubai two years ago, where Alidin went to a Russian speaking school.

He had been making progress at Millway in maths, his English had been improving and had made a lot of friends through playing in the school’s football team.

A letter from Millway’s assistant head teacher, Lyn Cregan, in support of the Severn family’s appeal read: “I feel it would benefit Alidin’s social and emotional needs and enable him to continue making such rapid progress as the majority of his friends will be going to The Duston School.”

But the county council’s admissions appeal panel found Duston School could not admit any more pupils as it is currently “oversubscribed”.

In its refusal letter the council wrote: “The appeal panel did have sympathy for the unfortunate circumstances and the lateness of your applications.

“However they did not find your reason to be particularly persuasive when balanced with the circumstances of the school.”

Mr Severn says that, considering the family’s circumstances, the school could have taken on one more pupils in year seven.

He said: “In my view there are 248 pupils in year eight and only 247 in year seven according to the letter I received. There is surely enough room for Alidin.”

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “This year we received more than 7,200 applications for a secondary school place in Northamptonshire. Eighty-four per cent of those children were allocated a place at their first preference school, an increase of two per cent compared with last year, and 97 per cent got a place at one of their three preferred schools.

“It is important that parents submit their application on time and we encourage them to include a second and third choice school in case their first choice is oversubscribed. Families whose application for a place at a school was unsuccessful can appeal through the independent appeals process.”