Harpenden MP Peter Lilley slams delayed opening of new secondary school
PUBLISHED: 19:27 24 February 2016
Harpenden MP Peter Lilley is "extremely disappointed" at the delayed opening of the town's new secondary school, saying it is unacceptable to continue sending local pupils to St Albans.
The politician sent a letter to be read out at a public meeting hosted by Roundwood Park School on Monday (22) to discuss Harpenden’s proposed fourth secondary school, planned for farmland in Batford.
About 200 people attended the meeting including county councillors and officers, and members of the school’s proposer, Harpenden Secondary Education Trust (HSET).
The event was held in the wake of an announcement by HSET that it had asked the Department for Education to defer the opening of Harpenden Secondary Free School as it was taking longer than anticipated to bring the project to fruition.
While it was hoped the institution would open temporary classrooms on the corner of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane in summer next year, the school’s commencement has now been deferred until 2018.
Peter, who was unable to attend as he was chairing an international seminar, said: “It is extremely disappointing that the opening of the new school has been deferred by a year.
“That will leave a large cohort in the intervening year who cannot be accommodated in the existing provision within the three local schools. It is not acceptable that those children be sent to schools in St Albans.
“That would mean that in subsequent years many families would have one child in St Albans and younger siblings in Harpenden.”
Peter called upon Sir John Lawes, Roundwood Park and St George’s Schools “who are sponsors of the new school [to] accept their responsibility for helping cope with this temporary crisis.
“That may mean the schools accepting a bulge class as has been done in the past.”
He has written to the Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, urging her “to do everything in the power of her department to facilitate the provision of local places for children from Harpenden and surrounding villages ahead of the opening of the new school.”
The meeting was told:
• There is a risk that planning approval may not be achieved in time for the hoped-for September 2018 opening
• Planning ‘should be achievable’ by May 2017 with an 18-month build starting in July 2017, and completion by January 2019
• The school will be a co-educational all ability school for 11-18 year olds, with an admissions number of 180
• If needed, until the schools’ fields and sports centre are ready, pupils would share other schools’ facilities
• The county council said it has arranged for Sandringham School in St Albans to offer 30 more places, prioritised for Harpenden and Wheathampstead pupils, in 2017
• HSET hopes to launch its website to market the school next month, with development of the institution’s uniform taking place in May
Ben Bardsley, Harpenden Parents Group (HPG) chairman, said afterwards: “When 200 concerned parents attend a meeting such as this, it shows just how concerned local families are about the shortfall in secondary school places in our town.
“HPG will continue to support the families of current Year 6 children this year, as well as the families of children in future years who will not get a local secondary school place.
“For the sake of the Year 4 children in the area, this school must be ready for them in September 2018.”