Anger over Wheathampstead school place allocations

Townsend School

Townsend School - Credit: Archant

Tensions are running high in Wheathampstead after a number of families have had to enter the appeals process to get their child a desired secondary school place.

Figures released in March showed that Wheathampstead was the least successful area with 20 per cent of pupils unsuccessful in obtaining a place at any of their preferred secondary schools.

Three months on and a number of parents are still fighting to get their children into one of their chosen schools that is not too far away.

Natalie Crawley said her daughter failed to get any of her choices and was offered a place at Townsend CofE School in St Albans.

But the mother-of-two, who was hoping to get her daughter into a Harpenden school, claims the local authority is “failing the kids” and that the allocation is too far away. She added that as she was Jewish and her husband was an atheist, the school is an inappropriate choice for her child.

So far Natalie has lost out on one appeal, is awaiting the outcome of another and has one more scheduled for Sir John Lawes this week.

Wheathampstead resident Andrew Alexander’s son secured a place at Sir John Lawes because of the sibling rule but said he knew of around six children currently going through the appeal process, including Natalie’s daughter.

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He said: “It’s not looking very rosy at all. About six kids have all been given or allocated Townsend and none of them asked for Townsend. There’s nothing wrong with the school but it’s two bus rides to get there.

“I am not a newbie resident, I have been in Wheathampstead since 1967 and I also attended Wheathampstead School. I also know which school was “guaranteed” to Wheathampstead and Sandridge children after its closure. The clue is in its name. It saddens me to see distraught parents and sad children in the village as I know what they are going through . Any system that causes a child to feel sad needs to be changed.”

Both he and Natalie are part of a local group to improve school resources for children in the area.

A spokesman for Herts County Council (HCC) said: “We are aware that the secondary transfer allocation process is difficult for some families living in the Wheathampstead area and appreciate some parents may be disappointed with the school their child was initially allocated.

“However, we encourage parents to visit the school they have been allocated and speak to the head teacher before dismissing the offered place. If parents remain unhappy with their allocated school they can then follow the continuing interest and appeals processes.

“School places in Hertfordshire, and across England, are allocated in accordance with the School Admission Code (2012), with sibling links and home to school distance being used to allocate the majority of places at most schools.

“All schools in the Harpenden and St Albans area are either Academies or Voluntary Aided and as such are responsible for their own admissions and able to amend their admission arrangements and oversubscription criteria on an annual basis in line with the requirements of the Admissions Code.”

He added that in response to the demand for secondary school places across the area this year Sandringham School would be admitting an additional 30 pupils from 2015, with 25 of those places being prioritised for pupils living in Wheathampstead.