Possible solution to St Albans primary school places crisis

THE plight of parents trying to get their children into a primary school from September 2013 could be eased by next week according to the county councillor for the area.

Cllr Martin Frearson said he had been in close touch with education officers at County Hall about the shortage of places at Prae Wood primary school in King Harry Lane, St Albans.

The situation has arisen because for the past two years, Prae Wood has admitted an additional form of entry which has resulted in a higher-than-usual number of siblings being eligible for places there next September.

That means there could be no places for local children who do not have a brother or sister there – and some siblings might also have to go to another school.

Parents have hit out at the county council’s failure to recognise the knock-on sibling effect of increasing the intake for two years and the use of GP birth data to gauge the required number of reception classes at Prae Wood.

Cllr Frearson was reluctant to say what the county council proposals were to ease the situation before the school – which is closed for half term – had been given an opportunity to hear the plans.

But he went on: “It will help a lot to solve the immediate problem. I don’t like these short-term fixes and it is not county council policy to do it but this is an emergency. The balance of possibility is they will find enough places.”

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Cllr Frearson described the way the situation had developed as “most unsatisfactory” and went on: “It shouldn’t have happened like this.”

It is believed that the school might admit an additional half form of entry – 15 children – from next September which would provide places for all the siblings and some other local children.

Cllr Frearson was due to meet St Albans planning officers yesterday to discuss whether it would be possible to permanently expand the school on its existing site.

He pointed out that so-called Section 106 money from the development of the King Harry Park estate meant a “substantial” sum was available towards the cost of additional educational facilities around the new development.

While expansion of Prae Wood was rejected several years ago because of rules about playing field space, he believes they might have been relaxed by now and he wanted to find out if there were an insuperable problems to expanding the school.

Cllr Frearson added: “I am looking for a solution and I am fairly confident that in the short term we have got one.”