The Olympic legacy? A shortage of school places in Tower Hamlets


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The Independent Online

The Olympic development boom in east London has left children in the area with an unwanted legacy: a severe  shortage of school places.

The problem is so acute that families living next door to primary schools are missing out on places because children with no school in their own neighbourhood are getting priority.

The borough of Tower Hamlets has had to change its admissions policy to help families living in new developments near the Olympic Park who have ended up with no local school.

A building frenzy before the games created a massive increase in housing in the east of the borough, but no schools have yet been finished to cater for the new residents. Three primary schools in other areas of the borough are particularly affected and have been forced to turn down pupils living on streets nearby in favour of children from the Olympic developments.

Edward Snooks, 52, vice chair of governors at Chisenhale Primary School, which is one of the three affected, said: “It was a fantastic thing, the Olympics, and all the children loved it, but we didn’t expect this to be its legacy. All development was chucked over there [near the Olympic Park] and no real thought was put into what was going to happen afterwards, especially in terms of education.”

Dozens of local parents have been turned down for places at Chisenhale. Fed up, they set up an online petition this week to reverse the new education policy, and it already has more than 300 signatures. Keeley Naylor, 41, lives a few streets away from Chisenhale but has been told her daughter Ella, four, cannot attend. She said: “It’s a total mess and it’s going to have a detrimental effect on our kids’ education.”

IT consultant Joaquin Rios, 38, lives on the same road as the school, and his daughter Luna, four, attends Chisenhale nursery, but the family has been told she cannot go into reception. Mr Rios said: “We live 100m away but we don’t  have a place. Instead we got our fifth choice – almost a mile away. We moved next door so we wouldn’t have a long commute to school.”

A Tower Hamlets spokeswoman said: “The new policy on primary school admissions is designed to ensure families in parts of the borough not yet served by nearby schools are able to access a school place, as well as ensure as many children as possible are able to be admitted to a local school.”