Parents unhappy over delays in distance calculation decision

PUBLISHED: 15:00 27 June 2010

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CONCERNS have been raised about changes to the secondary transfer rules because parents will not know their child’s nearest school until September.

The way distance is calculated is being changed in time for the next application process to measure the distance to the school as the crow flies rather than the current system of measuring the route on foot.

It’s the norm in most local authorities and it aims to make the requirement – which falls under rule four of the admission criteria – easier to understand because the straight line distance is perceived to be simpler and less open to dispute.

But Herts County Council (HCC) will not be able to tell parents their nearest school and the point to which the straight line measurement will finish at each school ground until September – just a month before applications open in October.

Gill Owen, of Charmouth Road, St Albans, has always expected her daughter, who is currently in Year 5, to be in the priority catchment area for St Albans Girls School but the new rule has thrown that into uncertainty as her nearest school could now be Beaumont depending on where the straight line distance measurement ends at the school sites.

She said that their family and many others she knew had looked around schools during the current academic year to get a clear idea of which they would like to apply for, rather than leaving all the decision-making until the forthcoming autumn term.

No clear answer

Despite numerous attempts to get a clear answer from County Hall about how the new rule would work, Mrs Owen has been told that she will have to wait until the new documentation on school admissions is released at the start of the next school year.

She said: “I don’t think that the county council have really told people about this. The point of measurement could be in the middle of the toilet block or the school playing fields, they haven’t tested it and they haven’t told parents what is going on.”

Mrs Owen added: “There are so many problems with the current system and I understand why they need to make this change and once they have defined it then it will be much clearer

“But what I have a problem with is them not being able to tell you in advance what’s happening.

“I don’t think it’s fair, parents aren’t being given the time to make an informed decision.”

The new rules also apply to primary school applications.

A spokesperson for children, schools and families at HCC said that all parents would be in the same situation and that it would be “impossible” to give them any indication of their nearest school at present as there was no comparable data because it was a new system.

But she assured parents that there would be people on hand to help and guide them through the application process come September.

The county council later published information on their website which stated that they were still developing the measurement system and they confirmed that the end point of measurement would not be the school gates or entrance.

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