There is a chance that the Royal Borough of Greenwich will officially categorise our family as travellers. This week we have been struggling to submit an application for a school place for Ben for September 2018. This needs to be from Benjamin’s “principal home address”. However, we have tenants in our home address paying the council tax and Greenwich Council have rejected our application because we are not living there.
We emailed the admissions team, and after several useless cut and paste replies from them we received a sensible response, the salient parts are reproduced below:
This has been escalated to me as the Primary Planned Admissions Officer. I have also discussed this response with the Admissions Manager, who is my line manager.
I have read the email correspondence to date and completely understand your current unique circumstances and the request that you are making. But, I must advise that I concur with the advice given by colleagues in previous emails.
In summary, the two options that you have are as follows;
a) you may apply from your Greenwich address, providing evidence that you are the owner, that that the property is currently being rented by tenants. And evidence stating your intention to move back to the UK and back into this property once the tenancy is complete. Your application will be processed from this address once you return.
b) you wait until you are back in the UK and residing at the address and provide the required evidence. Upon receipt of this we can process the application.
The two two options given above will both mean that we miss the usual allocation of places to reception class. If we follow the advice given, on our return we would apply for a school place and be offered a place in a school in the Royal Borough that has a place available. We live in a remote corner of Greenwich and our road is in three London Boroughs: over the road is Lewisham and the bottom of our road, near where we live, is in Bromley. Our preferred schools for Ben are close to where we live, but not in the same London Borough. If we miss the application deadline, Ben would be offered a place at an unpopular school in Greenwich. The only way for us to be able to secure a place for Ben in the school of our choice would be to persuade Greenwich Council that we meet their definition of a ‘traveller family’, and then we would have absolute priority in securing a place for Ben in a school that a ‘panel of educational professionals and council officials’ agree is suitable. Once a suitable school is agreed, we would be offered a place for Ben in that school even if it is already full.
Fortunately, we have a third way. We own a flat near to our home that was vacated by a somewhat unreliable tenant at the beginning of last month. The flat is currently unoccupied and we pay the council tax. We have been able to submit an application from that flat as Ben’s principal home address even though none of us have ever lived there. If that application is rejected, our best course of action will be to persuade Greenwich Council that we are a ‘traveller family’.
One of the reasons for us currently staying in a house is to toilet train Jack. Toilet training is particularly difficult in a campervan with no toilet. I am pleased to say we are having some success: three days ago Jack had his first wee in the toilet, followed by his second and then third. Just as we were beginning to feel smug and complacent, we had a smelly and rather messy dinner time event that put us both off the rather splendid food Clare had cooked (Ben didn’t seem bothered and Meg was particularly delighted with the unexpected leftovers). But toilet training must go on, and two steps forward and one step back is to be expected.
We had a call from our hosts in Palermo. A package had arrived for me. This was a Brompton child seat that I had ordered at the beginning of December. We have one already, and Ben can ride a bike, but for longer distances he needs a seat on an adult’s bike. Two Brompton child seats mean we can cycle further as a family, and we ordered it for delivery to Sicily. When it failed to arrive before Christmas my credit card company issued a chargeback so we haven’t paid for it. Anyway, it had arrived and we needed to decide what to do with the parcel 200 miles away on the other side of the island. I drove with Ben to pick it up. This was an excellent opportunity to test the fuel consumption of our van, boasting in the literature 47.9mpg.
At the first fuel station we came to I topped up with diesel so we had a full tank, and reset the trip computer. Setting the cruise control to ‘economic’ mode we set off again, accelerating gradually to 90 kph, and holding it there, slowing for roadworks and junctions using the coasting function. The autostrada climbed gently from close to sea level to about 2500 feet, then dropped towards the other side of the island. At lunchtime the display was boasting 18.5 Km per litre (52.3 mpg). We collected the parcel soon after lunch, and headed on around the slower and rugged southern coast of the island. This was mostly on grade separated single carriageway, with cruise control limiting the speed to 70 kph, but this also included several sections through highly congested town centres, and one significant climb through hairpin bends over a big hill again to about 2500 feet. The return trip took twice as long as the outward trip, and was a mistake. The views over the Mediterranean Sea were fully obscured by torrential rain, and lost completely after sunset. Ben and I experienced nothing of interest, he became tired and distressed after so long in the car, and I felt like a dreadful dad until he fell asleep.
Near our journey’s end I filled up with diesel once more and photographed the dashboard display as I couldn’t be bothered to do the calculations there and then. Ben went straight to bed, and I had dinner. Eventually I had a look at the figures.
A boasted average of 18.2 km/l (51.4 mpg) over 638 Km (396 miles). But what of my true fuel consumption? On our return I had filled up with 36.69 litres of diesel, that gives 17.4 Km/l or an incredible 49.2 mpg, beating VW’s extra urban claim of 47.9 mpg; the trip computer’s boast was 4.6% higher.
The next morning I left the house to find our van wax at the end of a rainbow.
Today we went into Syracuse to visit a Greek theatre, its location is not as impressive as the one we visited previously at Segesta, but it has other features remaining for 2500 years not seen at Segesta, such as a water supply and tombs.
The water was channelled in to be used to purify the soul, not for drinking, and the seating for the theatre is hewn from the rock, not built. However, we were somewhat disappointed to learn that this is not the original 2500 year old theatre, it was substantially renovated sometime between 238 and 215 BC.
The theatre is still used for performances between May and July each year.