Possible Harpenden free school sites named

PARENTS and residents are a step closer to finding out where the new Harpenden Free School will be located this week, after organisers named two possible sites.

A new building on Crabtree Fields, just off Waldegrave Park, is one of the possible sites and the second is a proposed conversion of a building on the Rothamsted Research estate.

And while plans to open next September remain unchanged, it is very likely that lessons will take place in temporary accommodation while the conversion or building work is ongoing.

Details first emerged last month that a new primary school, offering 420 places, had been given the green light to open in Harpenden by the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.

District and county councillors were nonplussed by the announcement, with many claiming that Herts County Council had also been kept in the dark about the school.

The three organisations behind the school, Artisans Kindergarten, Changemakers and Iseldon Partnership, met with local headteachers and governing bodies last week to reassure them that it was not moving in with a view to undermine existing schools.


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Adam Nichols, chief executive at Changemakers, a national youth charity, and chair of Harpenden Free School, said: “There is already competition between schools operating in Harpenden.

“The most popular schools are heavily oversubscribed, while those which parents deem to be less desirable have historically struggled to fill their places. We want to play a supportive role as part of the family of local schools in the town.

“But we do believe we have something distinctive to offer – and we also recognise that this will not be desirable for all parents.”

The group say they have assessed demand for places and have “comfortably exceeded the demand threshold” set by the DfE and have, since the school was approved, been inundated by interested parents.

Director of Harpenden Free School, Ruth Martin, already runs Artisans Kindergarten in the town. Combining Montessori principles with the National Foundation Stage Curriculum, the primary school will be a continuation of a similar educational ethos.

Adam revealed that the admissions policy was still awaiting final approval from the Department for Education but said they hoped to give children living closest to the school the best chance of getting a place but that children living further away would still have the opportunity to attend.

He added: “We want to avoid the ‘doughnut effect’ which currently afflicts many popular schools in which house prices are artificially inflated as those with the resources move closer, while less advantaged families are squeezed out.”

Iseldon Partnership, which runs public buildings in the leisure, health, arts and youth sectors are the other organisation behind the project.

A period of statutory consultation will begin in the next few weeks. For further information, visit www.harpendenfreeschool.org.uk