Pupils must travel to Hatfield after further delays to Harpenden secondary school

Building work is underway at the new Katherine Warington School in Harpenden. Picture: Katherine War

Building work is underway at the new Katherine Warington School in Harpenden. Picture: Katherine Warington School - Credit: Archant

Delays in the construction of Harpenden’s new secondary school mean pupils will have to be bussed to Hatfield for the start of the school year.

Katherine Warington School (KWS) in Harpenden will still open in September this year, but for the first three weeks pupils will have to attend classes at the Law Court Building on the University of Hertfordshire campus in Hatfield.

In a letter to parents, headteacher Tony Smith explained that the start of the construction in January was delayed by three weeks due to legal issues accessing the site.

As a result phase one of the build, which will see the sports centre converted into temporary classrooms, could not catch up on the lost three weeks, so at the start of term pupils will have to travel to the Law Court Building at the University of Hertfordshire campus in Hatfield.

All transport to and from the university will be provided at no cost to parents or carers. While the original intention was for pupils to board coaches at the KWS site, the site may not be ready to park up three large coaches on hard-standing surfaces during the ongoing construction work. Therefore a collection and drop-off point has been arranged at Sir John Lawes School, which will be in place from Monday, September 5 (the first day of term) to Friday, September 20.

Phase one of construction will be completed on Thursday, September 19, and the school will be occupied over the weekend of September 21.

From Monday, September 23 to Wednesday, September 25, all staff and pupils will go on a residential trip to Camp Wilderness in Knebworth, and Thursday, September 26 and Friday, September 27 will be inset days to allow staff to get the school ready for pupils to arrive on site on Monday, September 30.

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Ben Bardsley, chairman of Harpenden Parents Group, said: "Parents are understanding of what is happening here and there is no surprise or concern with the apparent small delays.

"KWS were open with parents about the potential for this during the allocation process, so as far as parents are concerned they are happy with the process, which is in line with expectations.

"I think it demonstrates how well KWS have communicated with prospective applicants and how open they have been in keeping them informed.

"In addition, parents view the proposed sessions at the university as a positive educational opportunity."

According to HPG, parents and children were informed of the three week delay some time ago at a post-allocation meeting.

The University of Hertfordshire is a founding member of the trust set up to establish a new secondary school in Harpenden.

Head Tony Smith said: "From pupils arriving at the University of Hertfordshire Law Court building on September 5 through to their 'induction graduation' on September 20, we have the Law Court Building for our exclusive use thanks to the cooperation of our trust partner."

The second phase of the build, which will see the construction of the main building, is currently slightly ahead of schedule and the letter said there are "no immediate concerns regarding the handover of the completed build in the summer of 2020".

Campaign group Right School Right Place (RSRP), who have long maintained that the school site off Lower Luton Road is inappropriate for development, is sceptical that the school will be finished on schedule.

In a statement, the group said: "Previous public information has talked about how quickly work is going, especially since the time allocated for archaeological evaluation was much shorter than planned.

"The sports hall, due to be clad by May and completed as temporary classrooms by September, several weeks behind schedule, has been standing as an unclad frame for far more than two weeks.

"In addition, the Lower Luton Road entrance planned for completion in early April, for which Herts County Council are responsible, has yet to even appear on any road works forecast.

"These delays and changes only serve to back concerns that all the effort that went into protecting safety of pupils and residents is being casually swept aside.

"Given that so many components of the build appear so far behind schedule, a major concern is that the current promises seem highly likely to be over-optimistic."