Colney Heath pupil forced to travel to Hatfield for school after shortfall in places

PUBLISHED: 17:42 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:33 09 April 2019

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2019 Archant

Parents in Colney Heath are appealing to the county council after their children were given secondary school places in Hatfield.

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

A shortfall in places meant that 189 children in St Albans district were left with no school and placed on a ‘continued interest’ list, but all have now been given places.

However, four out of the six Colney Heath children who were not given a school place will be forced to travel to Hatfield rather than attending a school closer to home.

Mum Leanne Prowle, of Wistlea Crescent, put three St Albans schools down for her 11-year-old son Zak, but he was given a place at Onslow St Audrey’s in Hatfield.

Leanne said: “We applied for Beaumont first choice, Nicholas Breakspear second, Samuel Ryder third and Dame Alice Owen’s fourth. My son came home on the day of the allocation jumping up and down all excited, saying ‘what school did I get?’

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

“On allocation day we weren’t offered any school. It wasn’t until the first round we were offered Onslow St Audrey’s.

“I am just so gobsmacked. We pay St Albans council tax and we live in St Albans. My son can’t understand how he hasn’t got a school and now we have an appeal process to go through.

“I’ve rejected Onslow St Audrey’s because my son would have to walk through an underpass and it’s 3.3 miles, which is a long way for him to walk. I think an 11-year-old walking home alone on a dark winter afternoon is dangerous – anything could happen to my son.

“I’ve been living in Colney Heath basically all my life. When I was a kid I got Beaumont.”

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Zak plays football and wants to participate in sports in secondary school, but would struggle to do after-school activities due to the bus services between Colney Heath and Hatfield.

Colney Heath Cllr Chris Brazier said: “Hertfordshire County Council must have been aware of the situation in Colney Heath. The lack of secondary school places has been seen coming by myself and my county colleague.

“If you build houses on school playing fields (i.e. Beaumont), you lose up to 140 places for children in my ward.”

The initial shortfall in school places this year was partly blamed on the new Katherine Warington School (KWS) in Harpenden, which is due to open in September.

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

Children applied to KWS through a ‘parallel process’, meaning some were offered two places – one at KWS and one at another school. Once these offers were accepted following the first round of allocations, duplicate offers were removed and more places became available for other children.

Parents held a protest in St Albans city centre on March 9 campaigning for children with no school place to be given priority on the continued interest list over children who had a school place but wanted a different one.

Although the campaign was unsuccessful, following the first round of continued interest on Friday, March 22, every child in St Albans district was allocated a school. Of the 189 initially without a place, 61 per cent were given one of the choices on their list.

A county council spokesman said: “When a place cannot be offered at any of the schools listen on the application form, a place is allocated in line with published process at the nearest school where a place is available, in this case Onslow St Audrey’s.

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

“This school is within the statutory walking distance of three miles and a number of children from the area have been allocated a place there this year.

“It should be noted that in most cases the families had listed a school as a preference on their application that is further away than this allocation.

“An alternative non-ranked allocation could be offered at Townsend C of E School in St Albans if this would be preferable, but this school is almost double the distance of Onslow St Audrey’s School.

“It is not unusual for children to travel out of their own town to attend a school. For example, this year, 79 children from Hatfield have been allocated a preference school in St Albans.

Parents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOOParents and children protest the lack of secondary school places in St Albans city centre. Picture: DANNY LOO

“It is not always possible to offer a place at a family’s preferred school(s), especially when those schools are popular and oversubscribed.

“This child’s name has automatically been placed on the continuing interest list for the preferred schools. The family also have the right to lodge an appeal for any of their preference schools, if they have not done so already.”

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