£10,000 cost of getting to school

PUBLISHED: 13:37 12 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:01 06 May 2010

A CONCERNED father has worked out that his young daughter would have to catch three buses and travel for one-and-a-half hours to reach the secondary school she has been allocated. Paul Sheehan, of Gustard Wood, whose daughter Zoe is one of 19 children in

A CONCERNED father has worked out that his young daughter would have to catch three buses and travel for one-and-a-half hours to reach the secondary school she has been allocated.

Paul Sheehan, of Gustard Wood, whose daughter Zoe is one of 19 children in Wheathampstead not to get any of their three ranked schools, also estimates it could cost Herts County Council as much as £10,000 to get her to Onslow St Audrey's in Hatfield.

Zoe and her family had listed Sir John Lawes and Roundwood Park Schools - their two nearest - as her first two choices with St Albans Girls School ranked third. They had not considered or listed Onslow St Audrey.

Paul, who is appealing and is on the continuing interest lists of all three schools, pointed out that as Zoe had a five-year-old brother at school in Harpenden, she would have to make her own way to the Hatfield school.

From her home it would mean taking three buses and a journey of one-and-a-half hours travel. He also pointed out that as Zoe lived more than three miles from the school, the county council would be liable for taxis to get her there which could cost as much as £10,000 during her secondary school life.

But it would not cost the education authority anything if she gained a place in Harpenden because both her parents would have been able to drop her in the town.

He added: "The worst thing of all for me is that having told us in effect because of the way selection works that we should select schools in our locality, they have allocated one which is outside.

Zoe, who is at High Beeches JMI, has been at school in Harpenden all her life and her family only moved to Gustard Wood fairly recently. Paul said that all her friends had been allocated one of the two Harpenden schools they had selected and it had left his daughter feeling ostracised.

A total of 77 children in the St Albans district did not get one of their ranked secondary schools and those in Wheathampstead were allocated either Onslow St Audrey or Francis Bacon.

Secondary schools campaigner and St Albans councillor for Wheathampstead Judy Shardlow urged every parent who had been allocated a school that they had not chosen to reject it.

She added: "How long will it take Herts County Council to realise that they should be investing money into more local school places and ensuring that the 'rules' for secondary transfer are fairer for villages?

"Yet they continue to spend their money on costly appeals, many of which they lose because the appeals panel can clearly see that the current system is unfair to village children."

She added: "Every child in Harpenden is naturally closer to a secondary school than any child in Wheathampstead and since there are about 550 applications for 180 places at Sir John Lawes and over 700 applications for 180 places at Sandringham, we don't stand a fair chance."

A public meeting to offer advice to parents with no ranked school place is being held at 7.30pm tonight (Thursday) at Mead Hall in Wheathampstead.

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