Comment: Why ‘moving for schools’ is such a hot topic in parts of Herts

Securing your preferred school place isn't always easy

Securing your preferred school place isn't always easy - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Schools, eh? It’s the buzzword in many an estate agent’s office around these parts, and for Londoners looking to make the move out of the capital, the promise of a free, Ofsted ‘outstanding’ education is often a main draw.

After all, we’re blessed with loads of great education options here in Hertfordshire, and it’s common to hear people say there are “no bad schools” locally. But that doesn’t stop some parents going to great lengths to secure their preference.I’ve heard of families renting for six months in the catchment of a popular school while they “renovated” their own home, only to move back in once the place had been secured with no sign of any renovations having taken place.

Then there are the people who find God for one deeply unchristian reason: they want their child to attend an over-subscribed Catholic school and the letter from the priest isn’t going to sign itself.

These dubious practices, combined with new developments being approved next door to popular schools – Beaumont in St Albans is one such example – mean that catchments are tighter now than ever.

While towns like St Albans and Harpenden aren’t short on wealthy families, many of them are unable to stretch to hefty private school fees in the region of the £18,000 per year required by St Albans School, assuming they’re even in favour of a fee-paying education. Competition for a state school place is, therefore, intense.

With our eldest child currently in Year Four, we’ll be joining the hordes taking tours of all the local schools next academic year. We’ll then have a year to decide if we can face or afford the upheaval that may be required to secure our favoured option (via legitimate means, of course!)

It’s a world away from my own experience of being sent to the local default comp (in Yorkshire) with no particular thought for whatever the other options might have been. Have things changed or has Herts always been this way?