Army school places concern

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A decorated serviceman has criticised Peterborough City Council after successfully appealing the school place it offered his daughter.

Major Geoff Smith, who has received 10 medals after taking part in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, was unhappy the council would not take into account his service of nearly 30 years after he applied for a Year 7 place for daughter Philippa.

Major Smith is stationed in Brunei where he lives with wife Louise and Philippa (10), but the family have a home in Sugar Way, Woodston, which they are returning to in July.

The council, though, did not use that address when school places were designated as the family were not living there yet.

Instead, Philippa was offered a place at Hampton College, but the family have now successfully appealed the decision and Philippa will attend Nene Park Academy, Oundle Road, in September.

Major Smith, who went to school in Peterborough, said: “I feel Peterborough City Council has a long way to go before it can state it is compliant with the Armed Forces Covenant as this evidence shows scant regard to it.”

The covenant, which the council is signed up to, pledges support to service personnel. Major Smith, who said he had a letter from the Ministry of Defence stating the family was returning to Peterborough, said he felt “thoroughly offended and upset” by the council’s treatment and that his near three decades of service was “completely disregarded.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We are totally committed to supporting armed forces families who are being posted to new areas by their job with the early allocation of school places.

“But when a family’s move to our area is of their own choosing, which is the case with this family, we have to ensure that the application process treats people equally so that it is fair to all children.

“Proof of residency is central to the application process and an important way of making sure that school places, much sought after in some areas, are allocated in the fairest way possible.”

Last week, Sgt Major Phil Newby, who has been in the army since he was 16, told the PT he felt let down after he could not secure in-year places for his sons Ashton (13) and Chase (7) until he had moved into his new home in Stanground, despite having a moving-in date.