Councillor praises St Albans’ Sandringham School expansion

Sandringham School

Sandringham School - Credit: Archant

Expanding a popular secondary school to enable more children from a village to go there has been heralded for its foresightedness by a local education campaigner.

Parish councillor Judy Shardlow, who has spent years battling for a fairer secondary transfer system for children from Wheathampstead, has praised Alan Gray, head of Sandringham, for the plan to expand the school on The Ridgeway, St Albans.

Sandringham has submitted a planning application to build 15 additional classrooms including science laboratories, a music/art room and additional dining space which would increase its intake by 30 pupils with 25 of those spaces guaranteed to applicants from Wheathampstead.

It has caused a row in London Colney because a large chunk of the money to build the extension has come from the Section 106 agreement – money developers pay for additional infrastructure when they get planning permission for large schemes – from the redevelopment of Napsbury Hospital in the village.

The proposal was described by London Colney parish council chairman as “a case of municipal mugging” because the money was being used to expand a school five miles away which very few children in the village attended.

Sandringham School was created from the amalgamation of the former Wheathampstead and Marshalswick secondary schools on the latter’s site.

To compensate for closing the village school, the county council pledged that children in the village would get priority for places at Sandringham.

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But with Sandringham’s growing popularity and changes to the admission rules over the years with the emphasis on residential qualification, that was not sustained which has left children in Wheathampstead struggling to get places at either Sandringham or the three Harpenden schools.

Cllr Shardlow said this week that Mr Gray had said 18 months ago that he was looking for Sandringham to be “more of a school for Wheathampstead”.

She went on: “That this is coming to fruition is wonderful when a school becomes as popular as Sandringham.”

Cllr Shardlow pointed out that what was also innovative and fair about the proposal was that there would be a random allocation of places to children in the village instead of it being based on proximity.