Michael Gove urged to intervene over Radlett free school row
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Education Secretary Michael Gove is being asked to intervene in a row over the postponement of the opening of a new free school on the outskirts of St Albans after local MPs, parents and governors voiced protests about the delay.
Schools Minister Lord Nash “shocked” governors of Harperbury Free School recently after announcing he was deferring its opening until September 2015, as his department had failed to secure a site for it.
That is despite Mr Gove giving the go-ahead for the school last year.
St Albans MP Anne Main said that she and Hertsmere MP James Clappison had discussed the problem with Mr Gove and they would lobby him further.
She added: “Michael Gove is Lord Nash’s boss, and he is the person we need to sort this mess out. I have told him there has been a muck-up.”
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Mrs Main said that one option offered by Lord Nash – building the school on an industrial estate off a busy road in Radlett – was unsuitable as “you wouldn’t keep cattle there”.
The school’s preferred site is within the grounds of the former Harperbury Hospital off Harper Lane, Radlett.
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Parents of pupils in London Colney, Bricket Wood, Shenley, Radlett and Borehamwood, for whom the school has been founded to serve, are furious at Lord Nash.
Sharon Lang, of Shenley, whose daughter was hoping to start at the free school in September this year, said that as a result a parents action group has been created “out of sheer anger” to overturn the minister’s decision and open the school this year as expected.
Lord Nash has asked for a full feasibility study upon the hospital site, and threatened to withdraw his support for the project unless his decision to postpone the opening was agreed to.
The study should be completed within 12 weeks.
One of the parents affected by the school’s shelving said her son was “in tears” after being offered his third choice instead of Harperbury.
She added: “He will have to travel on a bus at 7.30am at the cost of £1,000 a year. The St Albans schools are an absolute lottery.”
The mum said that as she and her husband had supported Harperbury, “encouraged by the government”, they had gone from “huge excitement” at Mr Gove’s approval, to utter devastation at Lord Nash’s postponement.