Public school enrolment zones raise Hunter mother’s ire

PROTEST: Tammie Spicer with her sons Callum Souter, left, who attends Cessnock West PS, and Riley Souter, right, who attends Ellalong PS. Picture: Simone De Peak

PROTEST: Tammie Spicer with her sons Callum Souter, left, who attends Cessnock West PS, and Riley Souter, right, who attends Ellalong PS. Picture: Simone De Peak

A Cessnock mother has started a petition calling for a re-think on school enrolment boundaries, after she couldn’t get her youngest son a place in kindergarten at the same school as his older brother.

Tammie Spicer launched the online petition at change.org that urged the NSW Department of Education to allow more flexibility in its enrolment zones when it came to allowing siblings to go to the same school.

Her eldest son Riley Souter, 8, was enrolled at Ellalong Public School when the family lived only a few doors down from the school.

But because they have since moved, Riley’s five-year-old brother Callum was not accepted into Ellalong and has instead had to go to school at Cessnock West Public School.

“In the last term of school, we were informed they [Ellalong Public School] weren’t allowed to take Callum,” she said. “[Callum] had his heart set on going to school with his older brother and now he can’t.”

Ms Spicer said she and her husband had not moved Riley across to Cessnock West because he had recently received good support for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a mild learning disorder.

They were also worried that his anxiety would flare if he was moved from Ellalong, which has about 100 students, to the much larger Cessnock West school, where there are about five times as many pupils.

“I’ve spoken to him about changing schools and it just upsets him too much,” Ms Spicer said. 

“And I think:

“Why should I have to put him through the distress when I shouldn’t be made to?

“They come home and they want to tell each other about their day but they don't because they don’t want to upset each other about something that happened at their school compared to something that wasn’t done at the other school.

“If they accepted Callum that would only be one more child.”

A Department of Education spokesman told Fairfax Media last week that the enrolment policy for state schools had been in place since 1997.

He said it was designed to make sure students who lived within a given enrolment zone did not miss out on a place at their local school.

“The Department’s enrolment policy explains how schools can consider out-of-zone enrolments if they have spare permanent classroom space once local students are enrolled,” he said.

“Schools able to consider out-of-zone applications often give having a sibling already at the school a high priority, but they are not in a position to give guarantees given the priority that must be given to local enrolments.”

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