Catholic school turning away siblings after surge in demand
ONE of Bristol's top primary schools is having to turn away brothers and sisters of current pupils because of an unprecedented surge in demand.
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary in Lawrence Weston has offered all 30 places in its reception class for September 2012 to baptised Catholic four-year-olds living within the three parishes it serves.
This has meant some children who have siblings at the school but whose family homes are outside the boundary have had their applications turned down, even though they live closer than many of those allocated places.
One of those affected is Joshua Scrase, four, whose seven-year-old brother Kai is a pupil at Our Lady of the Rosary. The boys live in Oaktree Court, Shirehampton, with their parents Wayne and Agnieszka Scrase.
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Mrs Scrase, a care and support worker at St Monica's, is Polish and she desperately wants her sons to have a Catholic education.
"I really want them to have what I was given," she said.
Although she has lived in England for ten years, Mrs Scrase, 33, said her language skills were not good enough to explain Bible teachings to her children so she was relying on the school and church to do that.
She said Joshua had also been looking forward to going to the same school as his big brother. Instead he was offered a place at a community school, Long Cross in Lawrence Weston.
Mr Scrase, a forklift driver, said: "If Joshua doesn't get in, he will be the first in the history of my wife's family not to have a Catholic education.
"This is a really massive thing for them. It is tearing my wife apart."
Mr Scrase, 39, is determined to fight for a place for his son, although he is aware that the school's admission rules have been applied correctly so his chances on appeal may be slim.
He said it was wrong that the church-run primary did not give priority to siblings.
"Jesus would not have split up families but that is what they have done," he said.
Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary received 114 on-time applications for places for September.
All the places were granted to children who are baptised Catholics who live in the parishes of Our Lady of the Rosary, St Antony's in Henbury and Sacred Heart in Westbury-on-Trym.
The number of applications from Catholics was up on previous years.
Head teacher Gerald Kloska said the problem had never arisen before. In the past, there had been enough places for siblings as well as Catholic children who lived within the three parishes.
"We don't want to turn any children away, particularly not Catholics or siblings, but we are a small school and have only 30 places on offer," he said.
The school's governors have already changed the admissions criteria for 2013 to try to prevent similar problems.
Colleen Collett, assistant director for schools and colleges at Clifton Diocese, said: "We are finding that there is an upward trend in children seeking places in reception classes and this is following the national trend. It is an issue the Catholic Church is aware of, but schools are bound by infant class size legislation and by their oversubscription criteria written in their admission policy."
Schools across Bristol are facing pressure on places because of a 23 per cent increase in the child population.
Bristol City Council is working with schools to create additional places in areas of demand, but has not expanded provision at any Catholic primaries.
In north Bristol, Avon Primary in Shirehampton took an extra reception class last year and is doing so again in 2012.
Church-run schools have different admissions rules from community schools and academies but all applications are administered through Bristol City Council's admissions service.