Father kills himself over battle for place at school

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The Independent Online

Steve Don, a 43-year-old surveyor, died after being hit by a train on Wednesday. He had battled for three months for his daughter to attend the secondary school of her choice, less than half a mile from their home in Brighton. The tragedy highlights the intense pressure facing many families who fail to get their child into popular state schools.

Mr Don's widow, Lorraine, said the family had been devastated by his death and that their experience made a mockery of Government's claims about parental choice. "He had become deeply upset and the issue had worried him every day since June", said Mrs Don, 41, a help-desk supervisor. "Our daughter would ask him about it every day. It felt like we were pushed from pillar to post."

Tragically, Mrs Don had believed their ordeal was over. Just hours before her husband's death, she had been told their daughter had been given a last-minute place at another school that would have been acceptable. She phoned her husband, but he refused to believe her. "He had been given false hopes before," she said.

The family had wanted their 11-year-old daughter to attend Dorothy Stringer School, a popular comprehensive close to their home. They were told in June that Brighton and Hove Council had allocated her a place at Falmer High School, six miles and two bus journeys away. Their appeal against the decision was rejected.

Hours before his death Mr Don made several phone calls threatening suicide because he could not get his daughter into Dorothy Stringer. He telephoned the Brighton Argus newspaper and said: "I am hoping they will start taking me seriously and my right as a parent for an appropriate allocation for my child."

A council spokesman expressed sympathy but said the Dons' application form had been submitted late and had ignored guidance by mentioning only one school, Dorothy Stringer. He added: "On Wednesday, the specific circumstances were reviewed and a place was allocated. It is inappropriate to comment more on the subsequent tragic events."

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