Fresh bid to tackle St Albans villages school place crisis

PUBLISHED: 06:31 10 July 2014

Wheathampstead residents hold a silent protest to get signatures for a petition after 5 local children were left without schools

Wheathampstead residents hold a silent protest to get signatures for a petition after 5 local children were left without schools

Archant

Parents and supporters of five village children who have not got a place in any of their preferred secondary schools took to the streets on Saturday to drum up support.

And so successful was the silent protest outside Tesco in Wheathampstead that people were queuing to sign a petition calling on the county council to resolve the situation and provide local school places for local children.

The families of the affected children have all gone through the appeals process without success and now face sending their children to Townsend School in St Albans which they have been allocated or home tutoring.

Natalie Crawley, whose daughter Isabelle is one of the five affected children, was hoping for a place at Sir John Lawes or Roundwood Park in Harpenden but she has exhausted her appeals for a place. The continuing interest lists for school places are due to close before the end of this month.

She said this week: “The county is saying they have allocated us a school but I have very valid reasons why it is not suitable, not just because of the difficulties she will have travelling there or the fact that it is a faith school but because of her medical and social needs.”

Natalie explained that she suffered from ill health and her 11-year-old daughter acted as a carer for her when her husband was working so, the family had specific needs.

In the meantime she was concerned that her daughter’s health was suffering as a result of the uncertainty, particularly as all the children who had got a place at one of their preferred schools were getting ready to visit them and most of her friends would be moving on to Sir John Lawes.

Natalie went on: “The county council is not taking into account the mental effect this has on our kids. Every time you go to county they say that from 2015 there will be extra places at Sandringham but that is no good to us.

“We are just being brushed under the carpet.”

Natalie has now made a formal appeal to the Education Funding Agency which cannot overturn appeal decisions but can order the county council to look at them again.

The five families have been helped by their county councillor Maxine Crawley and the issue is being taken up by Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley, Natalie has also set up a Facebook site under the title Local Schools for Local Kids which already has 100 followers.

The petition has around 600 signatures and Natalie said there was a large amount of support at Saturday’s silent protest and a number of village shops had agreed to keep copies of it on their premises.

Natalie added: “The admissions system is not fit for purpose because it doesn’t do what it says it will do.”

A spokesperson for the county council’s education department confirmed that places would continue to be offered through the continuing interest process throughout the rest of this term and, for those who have made a new ‘In Year’ application, during the summer break.

He added: “More information on the In Year admission process and an application form can be found at www.hertsdirect.org/admissions.”

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