East Maitland family torn by Department of Education's out of zone policy

East Maitland mum Ashleigh Gibson is fed up with seeing her two daughters go to bed crying at the thought of leaving their school friends through no fault of their own.

Young Madison, 8, and Isabella, 6, might have to change schools because their younger sister Charlotte’s enrolment to their school, East Maitland Public, was rejected.

“I don’t know whether to split them up,” Ms Gibson said. “It absolutely rips my heart out.”

Charlotte, 4, is set to start kindergarten in 2018, but at this stage it won’t be at East Maitland because she lives out of the school’s zone, despite her two older sisters going there.

Her application was rejected, along with an appeal Ms Gibson lodged against the decision.

The family lives just a few homes out of the zoned area, but have lived there for six years. The Department of Education’s out-of-zone policy has been the same for 20 years.

“They took the other two girls enrolments with no hesitation,” Ms Gibson said. “They never asked questions.”

A Department of Education spokesman said schools could consider out-of-zone enrolments if they had a spare permanent classroom space once local students were enrolled.

The spokesman said schools often prioritised out-of-zone students who had a sibling already at the school, but were not able to give guarantees.

“The priority that must be given to local enrolments.”

Ms Gibson said she liked East Maitland Public School and would fight for Charlotte to go there until the end, but had to weigh up the options.

She is tossing up whether to move the two older girls to Tenambit Public School, which would mean they leave their friends behind.

“I don’t want to disrupt their lives,” Ms Gibson said.

Another option is to enrol Charlotte at a different school, which would mean seclusion from her older sisters as well as more transport, extra uniforms and preparing for different dates for school events.

Ms Gibson is even considering moving house to keep the girls together.

“It’s causing a lot of anxiety and stress to out family,” she said.

Ms Gibson said she was waiting to hear back from the Department of Education and has also contacted Jenny Aitchison’s office about the problem.

I don’t know whether to split them up. It absolutely rips my heart out. - Ashleigh Gibson

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