DESPAIRING parents have called a public meeting after their children were left without secondary school places.

Following changes to the admissions system nine Cookham primary school pupils have no place at all, while 14 others have been ‘diverted’, meaning they have been allocated to a school not stated on their preferences.

Two pupils in Bisham are also affected.

Maidenhead MP Theresa May, who represents Cookham, has expressed support for the parents.

Julia Cox, mother of Matthew, a Cookham Rise Primary School pupil, has headed up the protest.

She said the news about admissions had caused parents “shock followed by confusion” and much anxiety to youngsters.

She said mums found it a “mind boggling” process.

“All along, we’ve believed we had the ability to choose a school for our children but because of this fiasco, the choice has been removed for many,” she said.

She said: “Cookham may cease to be an attractive place to live if you cannot get your child a place of the local secondary school so there are wider implications for the fabric of the Cookham community.

“A lot of people are absolutely devastated.”

Mrs Cox said there were “clear flaws” in the consultation process which led to a change in the old admissions system.

Maidenhead MP Theresa May, who represents Cookham, said she will press the Conservative controlled Royal Borough “to find a workable solution to ensure children are not left without school places.”

She said: “I’m very disappointed that the council have let this matter get to this stage and share the frustration of the significant number of parents whose children have been allocated to schools other than Furze Platt Senior School, and particularly those parents whose children have not been allocated to any school.

“I would like to know why the changes to the catchment areas were made after the Children Services Panel recommended that the changes should be deferred for one year to enable further consultation and modelling to be done.”

Royal Borough leader Cllr David Burbage told the Free Press the old catchment areas system was “unfair” and the new one offered more choice.

He said more the fact people had now been able to apply for popular schools like Furze Platt meant others had been unsuccessful.

He said: “The change has caused some people to be less advantaged than maybe they used to be.”

However, he promised “a sustainable and viable solution”, adding, “we can guarantee there will be borough places for borough parents in borough schools”.

He said “a very wide consultation” had taken place.

He said he would not make Tuesday’s public meeting because he has an important “prior engagement”.

However, education officers and Cllrs Eileen Quick and Richard Kellaway will be there.

He will be meeting some concerned parents in person.

The public meeting will take place at 7.30pm at Moor Hall, Cookham on Tuesday.

For more information about the admissions and appeals process see link below.