Girl, 11, faces three hour round trip to sixth-choice secondary school

An 11-year-old girl will spend more than three hours a day travelling to and from secondary school in the new academic year.

Phoebe Smith has been offered a place at her sixth choice secondary school with travel one way taking roughly an hour and 40 minutes.

Her mum says she only added John Willmott secondary school in Sutton Coldfield to her application because the online system would not accept the form unless all the boxes were filled in.

But she was stunned when she found Phoebe had been handed a place there, reports Birmingham Live.

The Smith family live in Roughley which is much closer to her first choice, Arthur Terry in Four Oaks.

And mum Joanne cannot drive her to school because of injuries she suffered in a crash caused by a drink-driver who was later jailed.

Phoebe would have to leave home at 7am and catch two buses to make the journey to John Willmott in an estimated hour and 40 minutes – and perform the reverse trip at the end of school.

Joanne said her daughter was the only child from her junior school offered a place at John Willmott.

Two of Phoebe's older sisters went to Arthur Terry and she already attends after-school clubs there, while she could either walk to classes with friends or take a lift with relatives working at the secondary.

But Phoebe is a victim of the school's popularity, which has seen it regularly over-subscribed in recent years.

Mum-of-five Joanne's appeal against the decision was rejected by Birmingham City Council and she has refused her daughter's place at John Willmott, leaving them in limbo for the new school year.

“Phoebe is the sole child from her school to be offered a place at John Wilmott,” she said.

“She’s so upset she has been having panic attacks and feels like she is losing her friends.

“If she went to Arthur Terry, she could walk with her friends in around 20 minutes.”

Phoebe is currently number 48 on the waiting list for Arthur Terry.

Based on Kittoe Road,, it is just over one-and-a-half miles from her home on the Harvest Fields estate.

John Willmott, on Reddicap Heath Road, is 2.3 miles away and she would have to make a 45-minute walk alone on unlit paths which Joanne does not feel is safe.

She is number 178 on the list for her second choice, Plantsbrook School.

And there is another, heartbreaking reason why Phoebe does not want to go to John Willmott.

“Phoebe’s 16-year-old sister was a witness to the Ozell Pemberton stabbing in the centre of Sutton Coldfield in May last year," Joanne said.

“There are still gangs around there and none of my daughters want to go anywhere near Sutton Coldfield town centre as a result.

“Phoebe would have to catch the bus in and out of the town centre every day to get to John Willmott.

“If she was to walk, it would be on unlit paths and she is scared to do this.”

Joanne said the online application system would not accept her form unless she filled in all six spaces.

“I never thought for a moment that I would be given my sixth place,” added Joanne, who worked as a prison custody officer at Birmingham Crown Court before her accident.

“Phoebe’s grandmother and auntie work at Arthur Terry and her cousins go there. She already goes to after-school clubs at the school.

“Her older sisters, now aged 18 and 17, also went there so we know it really well.”

For the last six years, Phoebe has been on the SEN (special educational needs) register and receiving one to one support. She has just been diagnosed with severe dyslexia.

John Willmott came out of special measures in January 2019 but Joanne is concerned her daughter's SEN needs would not be fully addressed there.

The appeal board told Joanne there was no space for Phoebe at Arthur Terry despite the family formally appealing.

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “If people are not happy with their preferences given then they are entitled to appeal."

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