HOST families in Winchester say they are being continually frustrated in their efforts to find school places for Ukrainian refugees.

Many families have had to endure lengthy appeals after seeing their initial applications rejected.

Others are facing the possibility of having to travel miles as the city's schools 'creak at the seams'.

Hampshire County Council has said it is working hard to find places for Ukrainian guests, revealing that it has already seen some 500 approaches.

However, hosts who remain on growing waiting lists have insisted that is little reassurance with September fast approaching.

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Stephanie Light, 69, from Winchester, took in Viktoriia and her two daughters Sofiia, 10, and Myroslava, 7, under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.

Since they arrived on June 29, the family have already had three rejection letters from nearby schools.

Mrs Light said: "It has been very difficult if not impossible to find a school for the children. As far as I can tell there are no contingency arrangements for any temporary education should they still not have a place come September.

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"It has always been bad in Winchester, they never seem to get it right with school places, but back in the day they used to put up temporary portacabins if there wasn't enough space.

"I've spoken to plenty of other hosts who are in exactly the same situation. I've got a friend waiting for a family to come over and they will have absolutely no chance of finding somewhere.

"The whole thing here has been a shambles. Our public services are creaking at the seams."

Mrs Light said this latest issue has heaped further stress on hosts who have already been "bombarded with bureaucracy".

She said: "It feels as if we opened our arms and said, 'come over here, we'll provide you with everything', but it just hasn't worked out that way. I feel slightly embarrassed and find myself having to apologise."

After being told there were still places at Stanmore Primary School, Mrs Light said she walked the almost four-mile round trip with the family so they could view it in person last week. However, with Sofia currently struggling with a foot condition, she said it is "unrealistic" to expect the children to travel there and back on foot each day.

The girl's father, Roman, a qualified surgeon stationed on the frontline in Ukraine, has since written an impassioned letter to the council's admissions department pleading with them to reconsider their stance.

Winchester City Councillor John Tippett-Cooper said: "A critical part of refugee resettlement is getting refugee children into local schools - this has obvious benefits.

"The universal feedback I have received is that schools in Winchester have been absolutely brilliant in stepping up to support refugee children.

"Spaces in schools in Winchester are limited though and many refugee families, most who have arrived under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, are having to appeal decisions to refuse their child to schools where certain year groups are full.

"The appeals process is stressful and complex, especially to families who have already had recent traumatic experiences, but the relevant rules do allow Hampshire County Council to allow for the admission of pupils above limits for refugee children."

A spokesperson for Hampshire County Council said: “Our schools continue to work incredibly hard to help Ukrainian families arriving in Hampshire - handling over 500 approaches for places. Most children seeking places are either already in school or have received offers of places in a local school. Our aim is to keep waiting times as short as possible for those remaining."


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