Schools in Halton need to expand to help meet parents’ preferences.

This was the view expressed by Halton Council’s executive board on Thursday, January 16 ,after a spike in complaints about school admissions last year.

Cllr Tom McInerney, member for children, education and social care, said: “The amount of complaints we get have almost trebled year on year.”

Last year, an increase in the number of children entering secondary school saw a sudden rise in complaints, especially from parents of children in Widnes who were allocated places at schools across the river in Runcorn.

The problem, according to the councillors, is that Halton no longer has full control over school admissions in the borough thanks to more secondary schools becoming academies.

Cllr McInerney said: “We’ve got kids going from one side of the borough, past schools, to schools on the other side of the borough because we can’t control admissions for academies and free schools.”

Previously, he explained, the council had been able to divide up the borough between schools, which had limited complaints.

But after Wade Deacon High School became an academy and gained control of its own admissions policy, he said, it ceased cooperating with the council and set its own catchment area.

Now, council leader Rob Polhill said, children on the same estate could end up going to different schools despite living “15m down the road”.

To deal with the problem, the executive board called on schools to increase their numbers “to help meet the preference of parents about where their children go to school”.

The board’s motion, passed on Thursday, added that schools would be “invited to take advantage of funding available to them from Government to increase their buildings to accommodate increased pupil numbers” and said the board would write to local MPs Derek Twigg and Mike Amesbury to seek their help.