A MOTHER-OF-FIVE is pleading with the Vale council to find an alternative school for her children, saying they have to walk nearly seven miles a day in order for the eldest to receive an education.

Lauren Collard, 29, moved to Penarth from Barry in September, having previously been in homeless accommodation after structural damage rendered her old home inhabitable.

But when a council property became available in Cedar Way, Ms Collard hoped that her and her children had found a place they could finally call home.

Two days before the start of the school term however, Ms Collard was contacted by Victoria Primary to say that while there were places for her two eldest children – Mia, eight, and Oscar, five – there was no room for her other school-age child, Bella.

With no car, her friends and family in Barry and her partner working away in London, Ms Collard was given the choice between taking her children to two different schools or taking them to Llandough Primary.

“I can’t be in two places at one time,” said Ms Collard. “All I wanted was a school we can get to.”

While the distance – 1.7 miles – is not a problem for Ms Collard herself, it is proving almost impossible with five children, a pram that will not fit on a bus, and no provision of transport laid on by the school.

Ms Collard says that the journey takes 45 minutes on a good day, which her two youngest children have to do four times. In bad weather, it takes closer to 80.

And she fears repercussions if her children are late or absent from school.

“If they were all able to go to Victoria that would have been perfect,” she said.“They don’t want to go because it’s so far away. They’re exhausted by the time they get there, the younger ones are crying. It’s a nightmare.

“They’re going to school drenched some days. It makes me look a bad mum.”

Her partner’s mother, Emma Dean, agrees.

Cllr Bob Penrose, Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Learning and Culture, said: “After being given temporary Council housing accommodation in Gibbonsdown, Ms Collard was offered a permanent home in Penarth and indicated she was very happy with it.

“On relocation to Penarth, Ms Collard attempted to move her three children from High Street Primary in Barry to Victoria Primary School, but there was only room for two. Space for all three was available at Llandough Primary School, which is 1.3 miles from Ms Collard’s home, and she accepted this offer.

“We understand Ms Collard is finding it difficult to get her children to school, but unfortunately the situation regarding primary school space in the area has not changed. There are no nearer schools where all three children can be accommodated and Ms Collard insists they must not be separated.

“The Council appreciates Ms Collard’s position and will continue to liaise with schools in the hope a suitable outcome can be found. In the meantime, every effort will be made to ensure the family receives all the support they need.”