School entry places may be halved at St Albans primary

Margaret Wix School in St Albans - picture Google Street View

Margaret Wix School in St Albans - picture Google Street View - Credit: Archant

Entry to a St Albans primary may be slashed in half despite worries about a school places shortage around the district.

Herts county council (HCC) is proposing to cut Margaret Wix Primary School pupil entry from 60 to 30 for September 2020, to “ensure the future financial viability/stability of the school”.

Only 34 new pupils applied to join the school in New Greens for September 2018.

This is at odds with nearby Garden Fields JMI School, which received 209 applications for 90 possible places that year.

HCC is obliged to publicly consult on any changes to school entry arrangements, called Published Admission Number (PAN).

Cabinet member for education, Terry Douris, said: “We would welcome the views of parents on these proposals, which aim to ensure we continue to have clear and fair admission arrangements.

“Parents who wish to comment on the admission arrangements for schools which set their own rules should do so through the governing bodies of those schools.”

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The authority is also proposing to clarify the late applications process and amend the definition of “exceptional” reasons to attend a specific school.

Cllr Roma Mills, who is HCC councillor for St Albans North, said: “In a sense it worries me because in theory with some development of the site Margaret Wix could expand to a two form entry school.

“So I am slightly concerned in the reduction because of the pressure in the north of the city on primary school places. We know that there’s a need for more primary school places.”

She highlighted a growing pressure for an entirely new school in the district - questioning the sense of reducing intake at existing ones.

“Margaret Wix is a bit out of the way, but it is no more than Garden Fields. This happens to schools, parents look at the school that gets the highest results, they all go there and the other schools get left behind.

“My concern is we need places and if we don’t place a development at Margaret Wix we will need to find another site.

“We need to be confident that wherever our children go to school they will get a good standard of education, that all the schools are valued equally.”

Three other schools in the county are also facing PAN cuts - Jenyns First School in Ware, Shepherd Primary School in Rickmansworth, and Holywell Primary School in Watford.

Edwinstree CofE Middle School in Buntingford may have its intake increased from 112 to 120.

A district councillor for Batchwood ward, Cllr Tim Smith, said: “We are very fortunate in St Albans to have great primary schools to choose from and I am surprised that Margaret Wix doesn’t get more interest, given its location to the wider Batchwood estate.

“Obviously Garden Fields is just on the border and their recent expansion could be why it is more attractive, but I have always said Margaret Wix is a very good school.”

His only concern was retaining staff numbers to ensure there is enough teaching capacity to tackle an ever increasing population and development “infill” around the area.

Adding: “Anything that maintains the financial future for the school is a positive thing and something I would support.”

Margaret Wix refused to comment.

The consultation starts on November 19 and runs until January 6 2019. Respond at