Grace’s story

A mother has described the heartbreak of telling her daughter that she cannot start school this week. Grace Gauthereau, of Temple Road, Cricklewood, is one of 70 four-year-olds and 102 five-year-old children who will not have a school place when the new term starts. Her mother, Sylvia, says she may have to quit her job to look after the four-year-old until she finds a place. She said: “Our life is on hold. In the worst case scenario either my husband or I will have to quit our jobs because we will not be able to afford full-time child care. It is heartbreaking to tell Grace she might not go to school when all her friends have a place.”

Brent Council has to find £52 million to deal with the borough’s shortage of primary school places. There could be a shortfall of up to 700 places over the next three years. Mrs Gauthereau said: “We are now on a waiting list for four schools in the surrounding area. The situation is so bad we would consider moving to New Zealand, where my husband is from, and where every child goes to their local school.”

The council has been criticised for allowing Preston Manor High School to become an ‘all-through’ school for pupils between the ages of four and 18, like Ark Academy, because they are both in the north of the borough.

Martin Francis, a former head teacher and chair of governors at two Brent schools, said: “Residents will choose all-through schools at four because it guarantees a place in the secondary school. This would impact on children from the south as they would lose out on the distance criteria.”

But a council spokesman said: “Fifty per cent of pupils admitted to Ark Academy live in the south. There will still be 194 places available for Year Seven admission at Preston Manor and 120 at Ark even when the current primary children move through to the secondary phases of the schools.’

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