SOUTHEND Council has moved to reassure anxious parents after they were told children in infants schools must apply for a place at the neighbouring junior school.

The council sent out a letter to parents whose children are in Year 2 across Southend about admission arrangements for transfer to Year 3.

The letter to parents said pupils in Year 2 at Bournes Green Infant, Hamstel Infant, Chalkwell Infant or West Leigh Infant, parents “must apply to Southend Council for transfer to Year 3 in 2024”.

As a result, parents who were under the impression their child would automatically transfer to a junior school attached to the infant school they attend raised concerns, claiming parents “don’t normally need to apply”.

One Southend parent who received the letter said: “I have spoken to other parents who were not asked to ‘apply’ in previous years which really did mean parents were fearful. The lack of explanation was a real issue, and the rumours went into overdrive.

“The council should and could have done more to explain what is happening. The language and the way it was phrased was dreadful. There is a section saying that applications were needed because it’s the law.

“Well based on what other parents said about a clear way between Years 2 and 3, where has this come from?”

Helen Boyd, Southend Tory councillor responsible for education and learning, said children at an infant school attached to a junior school will have the “highest priority for admission”.

The letter to parents stated: “Transfer to the junior school is not automatic - this is the law”.

Mrs Boyd said: “It is a requirement that parents and carers of children attending an infant school in Year 2 apply for transfer to Year 3, by the Department for Education. The set-up between infant and junior schools is different, with separate buildings and staff members, unlike the way in which a primary school is structured with the entire student body in one place.

“We need to be explicit in the letter as it is the law that parents with pupils attending the four infant schools in Southend apply for a place in junior school for Year 3 by the required deadline of January 15, 2024. I am pleased to be able to reassure applicants that all junior schools in the city have ensured that Year 2 children at the partner infant school have the highest priority for admission to the junior school, supporting the council’s aim of not unnecessarily interrupting the continuity of education.”