Lack of clarity in plans for Harpenden’s new secondary school

Over 200 people attended the meeting on secondary school places in Harpenden

Over 200 people attended the meeting on secondary school places in Harpenden - Credit: Photo supplied

Concern is mounting in Harpenden at the lack of a “clear and transparent timetable” for opening a much-needed new secondary school.

Over 220 people attended a meeting at Roundwood Park School last Wednesday (16), to hear progress on the establishment of a new school, proposed to be built in 2017.

A panel of speakers representing the Harpenden Secondary School Trust (HSST) and Herts county council (HCC) updated attendees on how the authority intends dealing with the forecast deficit in secondary places next year, and progress towards provision of a new school.

But afterwards Ben Bardsley, chairman of Harpenden Parents Group, warned, “There is real concern at the lack of a clear and transparent timetable from all parties regarding the planning application, approval and building towards an opening date in 2017.

“The school was originally planned for 2016 and has already been delayed by a year.

“There will be very damaging consequences for many children if the school is not opened in 2017”.

Ben added that parents attending the meeting were ‘relieved’ at getting some clarity on the site being pursued for the proposed new school - confirmed as rural land currently used as a cattle-raising farm at Batford.

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He said: “This will enable the long overdue planning application to be initiated.

“Once again, we would urge Herts county council to pull out all the stops to bring this planning application through and also urge them to be open and transparent with parents on the timetable and process towards that 2017 date.

“It is not helpful for officers and councillors to continue to provide vague promises about the next steps. Children and parents deserve clarity and reassurance that there will not be further delay.”

In an open letter to the town’s head teachers and HSST chairman Philip Waters the following day, September 17, county councillor for Harpenden south west Teresa Heritage said parents had raised two major concerns regarding admissions to Harpenden’s secondary schools.

One was sibling allocations, especially relating to siblings no longer living in the priority area.

The second issue was whether families in Harpenden south could be assured of a place at a school within the town, given the close proximity to other schools.

She asked head teachers and the trust to “raise the subject of your admission rules with your governing body to consider whether these rules could be amended to reflect a differentiation between siblings living in the priority area and outside [this] area.”

Referring to the ‘plight’ of places for children in south Harpenden, she said that “when the new school is initially built there will be more than enough places for all Harpenden children, but as numbers in the planning area and St Albans increase, there may once again be a problem for Harpenden south.

“It takes nearly two years to change admission rules so early consideration needs to be given to this potential problem.”