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Pupils withdrawn in protest over standards

PARENTS in Hull are refusing to send their children to local secondary schools in a protest over poor academic standards.

Fifteen 11-year-olds are being taught in a community centre after their parents refused to accept the school places offered.

The protest is the latest in what seems a growing trend among families unable to get the school of their choice.

Last week it emerged that 30 parents in Leicester have been threatened with legal action after refusing to send their children to the city's new "super school", New College.

Meanwhile, parents in Barnet, north-west London, are still refusing to send their daughters to Whitefields School in Cricklewood, claiming that the academic standards are inadequate.

Schools in Hull are some of the weakest in Britain, and last year the borough came bottom of the GCSE league tables.

Eight parents and one retired French teacher are defying the local education authority and setting up alternative classes in west Hull's Derringham Bank Community Centre.

They say that the three secondary schools allocated to their children - William Gee, Amy Johnson and Sir Henry Cooper - are simply not good enough.

Mother of three - and now teacher - Tracy Shreeve has chosen to send her oldest daughter Emma to the community centre. Since school places were announced at the beginning of March she has written several letters to the East Riding and Hull education authorities to appeal against their decisions.

She said: "We feel we've had no choice but to set up this school. What was on offer was not good enough."

None of the parents is a qualified teacher, although they say they have picked up teaching tips from other schools.

Another parent, Sue Flitton, said: "We'll carry on until our kids are 16 if necessary. I don't think it's ideal but nobody from the education department has been to speak to us about how to resolve the situation.

"I haven't deregistered my daughter from the school she was allocated (Sir Henry Cooper), but she's been here for the past two weeks and no one has contacted me to ask where she is."

The parents' protest is supported by independent Labour councillor Chris Jarvis. "All the parents are doing is emulating the Prime Minister. Tony Blair has exercised his parental right to take his kids out of their catchment area.

"This is a blue-collar ward, but the parents here aspire to better things."

Since news about the parents' group was first made public, the centre has received almost 100 calls from parents eager to send their children to the rebel classes.

A similar protest in Leicester, meanwhile, is continuing with the number of pupils taught in a temporary "school" rising from 20, last week, to 23.

The parents say they are backed by a 2,000-strong petition against the creation of the 2,000-pupil New College, an amalgamation of three former schools in Leicester.

The number of parents appealing against decisions on school places has risen steadily through the 1990s. Last year it rose by another 6 per cent overall (including a rise of 15 per cent in secondaries) to 77,000.

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