Campaign for extra Harpenden primary school places

AN incensed Harpenden mother has started a petition calling for Herts County Council (HCC) to create additional primary school places in the town.

Forty seven children were not allocated any of their three preferred schools in this year’s application process and that number has now reduced to 35 after the last round of continuing interest.

But the figure is still nearly four times what it was after the applications were first processed last year and far higher than in 2008 when 27 children weren’t given a school of choice.

After reading about the plight of St Albans city centre parents through the pages of the Herts Advertiser, Jane Thomas, whose three-year-old son Finlay has been denied any of his three ranked schools, started investigating.

She said that for the last 10 years there had been a marked increase in birth rates and a huge increase between 2005 and 2006, which is the birth year of children currently applying for Harpenden primary schools.

Mrs Thomas was angered to learn that many of the headteachers in the area had expressed concern to the council that there was likely to be a shortfall in places but that had been ignored.

She continued: “I find the lack of accurate planning by the council and their inability to provide school places in the local areas that actually need them unacceptable and the situation can only get worse in future years.”

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Additional places

Mrs Thomas has it on good authority that the council approached three schools in Harpenden to enquire about creating additional school places – The Grove, Sauncey Wood and St Dominic’s.

She understands that a planning officer had even met with St Dominic’s a number of weeks ago and that there was an agreement in principle to add an extra mobile classroom to the school.

But they were allegedly informed that the funding had been awarded to Sauncey Wood School, which is currently undersubscribed.

Mrs Thomas added: “The majority of children who do not get into one of their chosen three schools are allocated either Sauncey Wood or the Lea which are generally impractical distances away for these families.

“However, if the council were to provide the classroom to St Dominic’s or add places at The Grove it would alleviate problems across Harpenden as both schools have large continuing interest lists.”

With further Government spending cuts on the horizon, she feels the problem needs to be addressed immediately.

A spokesperson for HCC said that only 12 of the 35 children remaining without a place of choice had ranked their nearest school on their application.

But the council refused to comment on whether or not they were looking to expand any schools, saying only: “We are considering the situation in light of any movement following the continuing interest process.”

To sign the petition online visit www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/harpendenschoolplace or text PETITION followed by your name and the first three digits of your postcode to 88088 (standard network charges apply and the council may contact you for verification).

Email the campaign at harpendenschoolplaces@hotmail.co.uk

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