Deadline for secondary school applications nears

Parents of children currently in Year 6 are reminded that applications for secondary schools places for September 2020 should be made before midnight on Thursday 31 October.

For pupils in Year 6 – the last year of primary school – parents and carers can apply for a maximum of five schools and City of York Council recommends that at least one preference should be the catchment school

Applications can be made online at www.york.gov.uk/schooladmissions.

All details and answers to frequently asked questions can be found at www.york.gov.uk/guideforparents. This guide contains information on school admissions and appeals processes as well as information on admissions statistics, oversubscription criteria and other information for parents and carers.

For more detailed information, please email: education@york.gov.uk or call 01904 551 554.

“Last year, 91.5% per cent of pupils in the secondary school admission round secured their first preference. Our staff have worked hard to ensure that our schools have enough places for all applicants and we will let students know about their allocated school on National Offer Day on 2 March next year”.

York playgrounds to get overdue refurbishment

…but there is a catch

The York council plans a £250,000 make-over of playgrounds in York. Their plans will be discussed at a meeting next week. The initiative is welcome, but the timetable produced means that improvements in our parks will not be evident until late next year.

Many of York’s playgrounds are poorly maintained with litter, weeds and dog fouling common problems

Standards in many parks and playgrounds have declined in recent years. They have been an easy target for Council expenditure cuts. As a result, it has been left to volunteers to undertake minor refurbishment work while items of broken equipment have often remained unusable for months on end.

The Liberal Democrats – who are now part of the leadership of the Council – advocated for many years that at least one piece of equipment at each major playground should be renewed each year. This would have ensured that there was something novel to engage children’s interest on a regular basis while avoiding the whole-scale decline, and eventual expensive renewal, of complete play areas.  This approach seems set to be abandoned by the new Council leadership.

We agree with the report, which has been written by officials, when it says “Whilst the number and geographical spread of equipped playgrounds is therefore generally good, their play value is more varied. This reflects their age and sporadic local and national investment that has been available”.

The report promises an “audit” of all playgrounds with a view to identifying “urgent investment needs e.g. replacement swings, seats, surfacing repairs”. The budget for this work will be £150,000. The report lists the qualifying play areas but omits some such as the one  in Dickson Park on Tedder Road.

More controversial, is an allocation of £100,000 as a “challenge fund” for larger refurbishment schemes. One feature of these is that matching funding will be expected from parishes or social housing providers. In theory the fund will be available in non parished areas but the examples of fund raising quoted in the report (Poppleton, West Bank Park) refer to typical “Middle England” neighbourhoods where fund raising for new amenities is relatively easy.

It’s potentially bad news for areas like Westfield (the statistically poorest part of the City) which also has a high proportion of under 16’s in its population

The area has suffered badly as a result of recent Council decisions which have seen the removal of open spaces, sports facilities and the multi user games area at Kingsway West and Lowfields.

It seems that it may also be last in the queue for improved play facilities.

Decision session considers ‘uplift’ to foster carers’ fees

City of York Council’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education will consider plans to provide an increase to York foster carers’ fees at a decision session next week (15 October).

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson will review recommendations made in an independent report into the council’s foster carers’ fee increase, which was commissioned following a decision to cease the uplift in January 2019.

The foster carers’ uplift had been annually linked to any rise in social workers’ salary, but this was ceased so that the funding could be used to provide an enhanced training and support package for foster carers.

The independent report was commissioned following feedback from York Area Foster Carer Association (YAFCA).

The executive member will be asked to consider a number of recommendations in the report, including implementing the fee uplift for foster carers on level one and two of the grading structure in 2019/20, holding an annual conference for foster carers, and also setting out a clear framework for future consultation and communication on decisions relating to the carers.

The decision session takes place on Tuesday 15 October at West Offices from 4pm and is open to members of the public or is available to watch later online from: www.york.gov.uk/webcasts

To find out more about the report, or to attend, visit:

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young people and Education, City of York Council, said: “Foster carers are an essential part of our support for some of York’s most vulnerable children and young people.

“We recognise the important contribution that foster carers make to our city and we are committed to working in partnership with them.”

National Adoption Week (14-20 October) is the ideal time to find out if you can adopt

There are currently 69 children across North Yorkshire and the Humber who are waiting for permanent, loving homes due to a shortage of people coming forward to adopt.

Unfortunately many potential adopters rule themselves out, due to myths and outdated beliefs about who can adopt and the qualities they need. During this year’s National Adoption Week, which takes place from 14-20 October, One Adoption North and Humber is urging all potential adopters to come to an information event or contact the agency to find out how they can create a forever family.

In addition to a series of information events across the region, One Adoption is hosting a live online question and answer session via social media on 14 October from 8-9pm. The Q&A, which will be hosted on the agency’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/oneadoption, will enable people who are thinking of adopting to get up-to-date and correct information about who can adopt, the adoption process and anything else they are curious about from adoption professionals.

Suzie Grove, head of One Adoption North and Humber (the regional adoption agency) said:

“We would love to hear from anyone interested in learning more about adoption. We need all kinds of different families to meet the varied needs of children across our region and particularly need adoptive parents for sibling groups of all sizes.

“People often assume that you have to be a certain type of person to adopt, but this isn’t the case. We want people who are committed to having a positive impact on a child’s life, and are devoted to providing them with a secure and loving home.”

The regional adoption agency for North Yorkshire and the Humber is also keen to ‘bust’ the myths which often put people off from taking the first step into adoption.

Suzie added:

“Our team has lots of experience helping people create a family and are always on hand to answer your questions. For instance, you don’t have to be married to adopt, we have some excellent single adopters, and we have approved lots of adopters from the LGBTQ+ community. People of any race or religion are welcome to apply as are people who have a disability or are an older parent. The only criteria is that you must be 21 years or older, have space in your home and a willingness to provide a safe and loving home for a child.

“We are so grateful for the wonderful adopters who have chosen to adopt with us but we always need more people to take that first step towards becoming a parent.”

People who are concerned that they may not get the support they need once they adopt can also be reassured. One Adoption parents are supported throughout the whole process by highly experienced, dedicated adoption support teams. There is a comprehensive programme of pre- and post-adoption training and support – from stay and play sessions to more in-depth workshops and a new peer mentoring scheme.

During National Adoption Week One Adoption North and Humber is holding a series of drop-in information events to help more people find out about the adoption process and the needs of children who are waiting to be adopted. These are:

  • Hull – Wednesday 16 October, 17:30 (The Guildhall, HU1 2AA)
  • – Wednesday 16 October, 11:00-13:00 (80 High Street, Starbeck HG2 7LW)
  • – Thursday 17 October, 13:00-15:00 (North Yorkshire House, Scalby Road YO12 6EE)
  • York – Saturday 19 October 09:30-11:00 (West Offices, YO1 6GA)

These are in addition to the regular adoption information events held across the North Yorkshire and Humber region.

People who are interested in finding out more about adoption are advised to call 0345 305 2576 and talk to one of the friendly teams in each area or visit www.oneadoption.co.uk.

Cllr Ian Cuthbertson, Executive Member for Children, Young People and Education, City of York Council, said: “City of York Council is the host authority for One Adoption North and Humber, so I am really proud of the work we are doing together to speed up the adoption process for our children and help find the right adoptive parents for them more quickly. Our regional adoption agency is playing a vital role in improving the outcomes for some of the most vulnerable children in our care.”

Volunteers refurbish Foxwood Lane kiddies play equipment

Nice to see the play equipment in the playground on Foxwood Lane being spruced up today. According to social media the volunteers who did the work were from the Food Standards Agency.

We’re hoping that the Council will ensure that repairs to playgrounds generally are undertaken quickly.

In addition it would be nice to see at least one piece of play equipment renewed each year. This would give children something new to look forward to while minimising the upheaval of complete modernisation every 20 years.

More than 8,000 local children to take part in Walk to School Week 2019

More than half of York’s primary schools will take part in Walk to School Week 2019, which runs from 14 to 18 October.

The national, awareness-raising event is staged annually and aims to encourage children and their families to walk, cycle or scoot to and from school, rather than travelling by car.

Locally, in excess of 8,000 students from 28 different schools will get involved. City of York Council’s iTravel team will present the Jack Archer Award to the school with the highest proportion of its students walking, cycling or scooting throughout the week, as well as cash to spend on sports equipment, which has been donated by Age UK. The Jack Archer Award is now in its sixteenth year and Age UK has supported the competition since it was first launched as part of its intergenerational work to encourage children to be more active.

Councillor Andy D’Agorne, the council’s Executive Member for Transport, said: “It’s fantastic to see so many local schools getting involved in Walk to School Week and competing for the Jack Archer Award.

“The council is committed to promoting sustainable forms of transport and it’s important that children are encouraged to adopt these habits from a young age. In addition to the health and wellbeing benefits for the children themselves, walking, cycling or scooting benefits everyone by reducing traffic congestion and emissions, and improving air quality.

“Good luck to all the schools taking part!”

Residents of all ages can find out more about sustainable travel options by visiting www.itravelyork.info.

Westfield Primary gets £1m+ investment

Westfield Primary School has undergone an £1m investment programme over the last two years, with £425,000 being spent this year on refurbishing the east wing.

Westfield school

The most recent phase of the refurbishment has focused on the area of the school which houses foundation stage children through to Year 1 pupils. It has included replacing 104 windows, re-roofing two sections and removing a 40-year-old temporary double classroom.

The work has not only improved the condition of the school, but has also increased the school’s ‘environmental credentials’ by reducing energy wastage.

Re-organising the classrooms has also enabled the school’s nursery pupils to be brought into the main building so, besides being supported by teachers, they’re now co-located with the other pupils.

Last year, the school’s dining room, roof and kitchen area underwent a £695,000 refurbishment, enabling children to spend less time queuing for food and more time eating a healthy meal.  The former vast kitchen and dining spaces were reorganised, creating a pleasant, calming place to eat.

Parents and members of the community will be invited into the school during school holidays to experience the new space for themselves.

Lamara Taylor, Headteacher at Westfield Primary School, said: “The support we’ve had from the building team and City of York Council has been great and the scheme has led to considerable improvements to our school. The result has been amazing.

“I’m proud to show prospective parents around Westfield and the investment in the school will have positive benefits to the whole school community in the future. It’s all very exciting.”

Piling on the grief at Hob Moor school

Contractors at the new centre for disabled children on Ascot Way were piling yesterday. The site is only a few metres from the school so it is unfortunate that the nosiest work couldn’t be completed before the new school term started.

The residents association at their meeting on Wednesday are likely to be demanding answers to questions about why work on the replacement off street games facilities for young people haven’t been started yet.

Residents were promised 6 months ago that an all weather surface would be provided at Thanet Road together with an outdoor gym.

Neither has appeared although the Kingsway MUGA was closed some 3 months ago

Council taxpayers to foot £605,000 bill for sports pavilion

The Council have now appointed a contractor to build a “Pavilion, Clubhouse and Changing Rooms” on Tadcaster Road near Sim Balk Lane.

It will become the home of a football team currently based in Bishopthorpe.

The contract was won by Fullwood of Pontefract

The cost is an eye watering £605,000.

In total the project is expected to cost £1.5 million. £491,000 has already been spent on new pitches.

Taxpayers money

This compared to the costs of new modular changing rooms which are available from less than £40,000 from a number of companies.

These include Sports Changing Rooms and York’s own Portakabin

The cost of the pavilion is controversial because it is being partly funded from monies generated by building on playing fields at Lowfield.

More modest changing facilities would have allowed the surplus to be used to provide an all-weather games area to replace both the facilities lost at Lowfields and also the Kingsway West children’s games area which the Council demolished earlier in the summer.

The Council has still not made any public announcement about the replacement games area which could be located on Thanet Road.