Anger over Harpenden school places crisis

PUBLISHED: 09:39 26 April 2012

Herts County Council

Herts County Council

Archant

SOME families in Harpenden have been told their child failed to get a place at any school in the district, despite living within sight of their nearest school.

One distraught mother, who has lived in Harpenden all her life and attended secondary school in the town, discovered her child has not received a place at Crabtree School – or any other school in the area – despite living less than 350m from Crabtree’s gates.

Her family will now have to endure the continuing interest process, conscious that even though Manland Primary and Wood End Schools are now offering an extra 30 places to cater for the shortfall, parents who had chosen these schools as their first choice but were offered their second or third preference, will snap up these places.

Unfair

The mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “It’s grossly unfair but many people who were offered a place at a school they don’t want can refuse to take up that place and then go back on that list.

“I can see the school from my front garden and yet we will probably end up being offered a place at a school three miles away. Parents like me are being forced into the private sector – is that fair?”

Another family, who moved to Harpenden from South East London three years ago in a bid to improve their children’s quality of life, discovered their child had not been offered a place at any school in the area.

The outstanding schools in Harpenden were a major attraction and despite living 300m from the gates, they now feel like they may have made the wrong choice.

The distraught mother said she hoped she “hadn’t failed her children by moving to Harpenden” and that the family felt their “future was in tatters”.

She said that through the tears and anger, they were largely shocked to discover that so many other people in Harpenden were in the same position.

Also requesting anonymity, she said: “How can we not get into our nearest school? Why hasn’t extra provision been made at Crabtree or High Beeches?

“Why are parents having to fight so hard for the fundamental right to have their children educated at their local school?”

Harpenden Parents Group (HPG) claim that Herts county council have failed to heed their warnings that this year the shortfall would be more severe than last year.

They say that nearly 30 per cent of the town’s eldest children had not gained a place at any of their ranked schools.

This, they say, was less than 10 per cent just three years ago – and it’s going to continue to rise. Despite the increase in intake this year to 60 places at Manland and Wood End, HPG say that when the intake reverts back to one-form entry with 30 places, the vast majority will be taken up by siblings of pupils already at the schools.

Campaign

David Sparrow, spokesperson for the group, said: “The two extra classes are not enough. We are launching a campaign for another class at Crabtree School and parents are invited to get in touch with us.

“This problem won’t go away. We made recommendations to the council last year and while they took some of these on board, they haven’t implemented some of them.

“Last year, Aldwickbury School had to put on an extra class because of the amount of families who failed to get a place at a local state school.”

Herts county council say applications for primary places were up six per cent this year across the county which meant they needed 800 more places – another class at 28 schools.

As well as Wood End and Manland Primary schools, Beech Hyde school in Wheathampstead will also take on another form of entry.

All headteachers welcomed the expansion and said they were working with the council to prepare for the additional children.

Justin Donovan, director of education and early intervention, said that in some areas it had not been possible to offer a significant number of children a place at one of their ranked schools, and if the distance to the nearest school with an available place was over five miles, places were not offered at this stage in the process but would be offered next month.

He said: “This strategy means that, for the first time in Herts, some applications were not offered a reception place on allocation day.

“I recognise this is always a difficult time for these parents. However, although allocations for these families will be delayed for a month, I am confident that every child not currently offered a reception place will be offered one at the first run of continuing interest in the week commencing May 14, 2012.”

HPG are offering support to all families affected by the allocations – for further information on this issue, visit their website at www.harpendenparentsgroup.co.uk

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