Family unhappy at being told their four-year-old son could catch taxi or bus to school alone

Frances, Alexander, Gareth and Zachary Hawley.

Frances, Alexander, Gareth and Zachary Hawley. - Credit: Archant

A mother has criticised a lack of school places in Portishead after being told her four-year-old son could catch a bus or take a taxi unsupervised to school.

Frances, Alexander, Gareth and Zachary Hawley.

Frances, Alexander, Gareth and Zachary Hawley. - Credit: Archant

Zac Hawley lives a mile from High Down Infant School, but will have to attend St Mary’s Primary School in Portbury after North Somerset Council did not grant him a place at any of the three schools chosen by his parents.

His mother Frances said: “We didn’t apply late and I think we were in the 0.4 per cent who didn’t get any of their choices.

“We got Portbury (St Mary’s), and it’s a really lovely school, but it’s really awkward for us to get to.”

Frances said if there is not enough school places that Portishead children need to be taken to schools elsewhere, then another should be built or housing developments halted.

The Hawleys picked their home close to High Down in the hope and expectation it would secure their children places.

The family lost an appeal against North Somerset’s decision and Frances believes it will cost them thousands of pounds and stop her working.

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She said: “I think it is unrealistic for a four-year-old to get an unsupervised bus or taxi ride.”

Frances has a legal background but wants to re-train as a teacher but fears those hopes have been dealt a fatal blow because she needs to devote more time to the school run, as well as take her younger son to preschool.

The family have taken out a bank loan to buy a second car to take Zac to school, now he will not be cycling from their Charlcombe Rise home to High Down.

She said: “It’s a huge financial kick in the teeth because it’s going to make us poorer as I’ll have to put back when I go to work.”

North Somerset Council says it ensures there are adequate reception places made available across the district.

It said last year every child received a place at a Portishead school, but this year eight will travel elsewhere.

He said: “Eight pupils is not enough to make the creation of an extra class for 30 pupils viable within the town. St Mary’s Primary School in Portbury has agreed to accommodate an extra 15 pupils to meet local demand.

“St Mary’s is a member of the Lighthouse Schools Partnership and collaborates closely with Gordano School and four other primary schools in Portishead.

“The projections for the 2018 intake indicate no breach classes will be needed in Portishead.”