Harpenden school places shortfall worse than expected

Sir John Lawes School

Sir John Lawes School - Credit: Archant

School place planning figures reveal an even greater need for additional secondary places in Harpenden than previously thought.

The figures, released by the county council, show that a shortfall of secondary places in the town’s schools will rise from at least 120 in 2017 increasing to 248 places in 2019.

The Harpenden Secondary Schools Trust (HSST), led by the three existing secondary schools in the town, St George’s, Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes together with the University of Herts and Rothamsted Research, have been working together to create a fourth 11-18 school in the town.

Their work had been based upon research showing a shortfall of up to 112 places for 2017 rising to 228 places in 2019 and for subsequent years.

Philip Waters, chairman of the trust said: “These new figures show the stark choice facing Harpenden parents. Sign up and support the trust’s proposals for a new secondary school – or face the prospect of their children being educated at a secondary school outside the town.

“Parents must act now to pledge their support through the harpendensecondaryfreeschool.org website for the school to open in 2017”.

A source close to the project said: “Unless that support is forthcoming in time for the submission to the Department for Education in September 2014, at least 120 students will not have a place in a Harpenden secondary school for 2017.

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“Too many parents are assuming that this will affect other children and families but not their own, and that space will be found in the local schools for them. This is a very risky gamble. They also need to remember that proximity to a school is no guarantee of a place either.

“Parents need to pledge their support now, and be assured that by indicating their willingness at this point to name the new school as their first choice now they are not legally required to place the school as first preference when they complete their secondary admissions form in Autumn 2016.

“By pledging support now they will be ensuring that there are enough secondary school places in Harpenden so that all children will be educated in a high quality Harpenden secondary school.

“It really comes down to a simple choice – either a new school is built, or hundreds of Harpenden children will be educated out of town in the years to come.

“There are no other options and time is running out for 2017 students.”

A pressure group, Right School Right Place, has been set up to urge the county council to consider an alternative site to the their preferred location in Batford including looking at possible sites in the surrounding villages.