Boy, 11, forced to take taxis for 18 miles a day after he’s refused school place

The parents of a young boy who was the only one of 300 Year 6s in a school’s catchment area not to get a place next year fear how his mental health will be affected.

Alfie Vollans has been split up from all his primary school friends and told to travel miles 18 miles each day to another secondary.

The 11-year-old will have to catch a taxi from next to a bus stop where his pals will be picked up from each morning, at a cost of £8,500 a year to the local council, his dad has calculated.

Alfie has missed out on a place at Bassaleg School in Newport, south Wales, because he lives the furthest from it of the 300 children in the catchment area who applied.

The last available space was allocated to a child living 5.667 miles from the school, while Alfie’s home is 5.669 miles away.

The young lad was so close to getting in that he can speak to his next door neighbour, another Year 6 pupil who did make the cut, through their adjoining bedroom wall.

Alfie’s parents discovered that while he was top of the waiting list for a place, five pupils who live closer to the school jumped ahead of him when vacancies cropped up.

They fear that he’ll be exhausted by the commute and isolated from his friends if the decision is not overturned.

“We found that he was the only child who hadn’t got a place, we think ever, who live in the catchment area,” dad Simon Vollans said.

“I have lived here 35 years and no one can think of anyone else that has been excluded.

“We’re in a semi-detached and the girl next door who is the same age of Alfie, who he can speak to through the bedroom wall, is in and he isn’t.

“Being the only child out of nearly 300 to be separated from his peers and sent on his own to a distant school raises obvious concerns because of the solitary nature of Alfie’s exclusion.”

In May this year Alfie’s parents appealed the decision made by Newport City Council’s Local Education Authority to refuse him a place, but they were unsuccessful.

As a result Alfie will have to get a taxi to and from a school 13 miles away each day, something they are concerned will be bad for the environment and cost the local authority thousands of pounds.

“Alfie will be driven on his own, every day for at least the next five years, passed the bus stop where his friends will be catching the school bus to the local comprehensive,” his dad continued.

“He has lived in the village all his life and all his friends are going to Bassaleg.

“It is a fairly brutal thing to cull just one child of nearly 300. It’s not going to be good for him.”

A Newport City Council spokesperson said places were allocated in line with its admissions policy, which is derived from Welsh Government guidance and is consistent with other local authorities in Wales.

“The admissions policy sets out that living in a school catchment area does not guarantee a child a place in that school,” they said.

“School admission numbers are set based on Welsh Government guidance and therefore reflect the number of pupils each school can safely accommodate.

“The number of applications received for September 2021 Year 7 entry exceeded the number of available places for this school. In total, 93 on-time applications were declined.”

They said 25 people appealed and a “small number” were successful, while those who weren’t remain in the waiting pool.

“We have every sympathy with families in this situation, but we have a duty to balance the needs of individuals with the school’s need to be able to safely accommodate pupils,” the spokesperson continued.

“Should an applicant feel that there was maladministration in the appeal process, they are able to refer this to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.”