An exhausted mother-of-five is forced to spend three hours a day on the school run from hell after a Bristol council rejected her appeal to send her young children to the same schools.
Hailey Saunders, 38, from Fishponds in Bristol, was left in despair after her local council rejected her appeal for her five-year-old son to attend the same junior school as one of his older siblings.
The decision means that Ms Saunders spends an hour-and-a-half, twice a day, driving three of her children to and from three different schools, one of which is in an opposite direction to the other two.
Hailey Saunders, 38, from Fishponds in Bristol, was left in despair after her local council rejected her appeal for her five-year-old son to attend the same junior school as one of his older siblings
The decision means that Ms Saunders spends an hour-and-a-half, twice a day, driving three of her children to and from three different schools, one of which is in an opposite direction to the other two (map above shows the journey Ms Saunders must make each day)
On top of that, Ms Saunders’s youngest son, Indiana, is just 14 weeks old, and still wakes up crying multiple times in the night.
Ms Saunders said: ‘I am absolutely knackered. Indiana is up crying three times every night and then you’ve got the school situation.
‘With doctors appointments, food shopping and work, it never seems to stop,’ she added.
Ms Saunders’s four older children – Lexie, 15; Phoenix, 12; Memphis, 10; and five-year-old Darcy – all go to schools within a three-mile radius of each other.
Phoenix is lucky enough to live within a ten-minute walk of his school, Steiner Academy.
But Ms Saunders has to drop off and pick up Lexie, Memphis and Darcy at their schools each day – and the 5.6-mile round trip twice a day can take her as long as an hour and a half.
But Ms Saunders has to drop off and pick up Lexie, Memphis and Darcy at their schools each day – and the 5.6-mile round trip twice a day can take her as long as an hour and a half
The busy mum had hoped that little Darcy would get a place at Christ Church Infants School in Downend, where big brother Memphis goes.
But the family live just two streets away from the South Gloucestershire border – meaning Darcy was instead sent to Chester Park Infant School, in the other direction.
And Ms Saundersalso drops eldest daughter Lexie off at Downend School each day, two miles north-east of where the family live.
And she said the exhausting school run has left her considering whether to move house to try and get Darcy into Christ Church School with Memphis.
She said: ‘Usually the sibling rule would mean Darcy could go to Christ Church, but we were told it doesn’t apply because we’re two or three streets away from the South Gloucestershire border.
‘When there’s an accident close to Fishponds or Downend, the traffic is awful. We have been late three times in a week.
‘We leave about 8.15am and I’m not back home until 9.45am most of the time.’
She added: ‘One day Lexie had a dentist’s appointment in Clifton. Phoenix had to walk over an hour and collect Memphis so I could take Lexie.’
And with Steiner Academy set to close in 2020, Ms Saunders fears her school run nightmare could worsen if Phoenix’s new school is not close enough to walk.
Ms Saunders, who used to go to the same school her daughter is at, says her husband Rob is unable to help with the school run because of the hours of his job, working with tanks.
Asked if she would consider letting more of her children walk to school, she pointed to recent crime issues.
She said: ‘I am always seeing things on Facebook saying to be on the lookout for this and that in the area.
‘My children are small and slight. Memphis looks seven, not 10. I want them all to be safe, and I don’t think that’s the case walking around here.
‘Our house was owned by my nan. It’s been in the family 70 years and we have made it our own.
‘It would be a shame to have to move just to get my children into the right schools.’
A spokesman for South Gloucestershire Council confirmed it did not offer Darcy a place at Christ Church.
He said: ‘It is a very popular school and at capacity in the class that the family hoped for him to join. We do recognise the frustration felt by Ms Saunders. However, class sizes for Key Stage 1 are capped by law.
‘While the sibling rule cannot apply as the family live outside the catchment area, in Bristol, that class is actually oversubscribed for local children as well.
‘The family did appeal our decision, but the appeals panel have very limited scope to review the decision, given the law on class sizes.’
The panel found the council had correctly applied its admissions procedure.
Darcy remains on a waiting list to join Christ Church, which has declined to comment.