St Albans children with no school place will not be given priority following parent protest
PUBLISHED: 11:55 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:07 11 March 2019
The 189 children in St Albans who did not get a secondary school place will not be given priority on the waiting list above children who already have an offer.
Parents held a protest in the city centre on Saturday, urging Herts county council to put pupils with no school place at the top of the ‘continued interest’ waiting list, as currently they have no priority over children who were offered a school but would prefer a different one.
Cllr Terry Douris, the county council’s cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said: “While we understand why the parents of the children currently without a place feel they should be given priority on the Continuing Interest list, this is not possible.
“Legally we are bound by the School Admissions Code which is National Legislation set by the DfE and all places must be allocated in line with the published admission criteria for the relevant schools.”
The shortfall in places has been partially blamed on the new Katherine Warington School (KWS) in Harpenden, which is set to open in September. Applications for KWS had to be submitted through ‘parallel process’, meaning some children have been offered two places, one at KWS and one at another St Albans school.
Once one of these offers is accepted, duplicate offers will be removed and a large number of places will hopefully become available.
Mum Josie Madoc, whose daughter Seren did not get a place, was among the parents campaigning. She said: “It was great to have so much support from all attendees, kids with banners, and lots of local political representatives - plus so much interest and support from passers by.
“Let’s just hope that this now has a positive effect with Herts County Council and that this can be resolved happily for us all.”
The increase in applications has also been attributed to a baby boom in 2008, as well as the development of new housing in the district.
Cllr Douris said: “We appreciate that this is a worrying time for parents whose children have not currently been allocated a secondary school place for September 2019.
“However, we are confident that we will be able to offer a local school place to all children during the first run of Continuing Interest in the week commencing 18 March.
“As forecast the number of applications has increased and we have been planning for this expected rise in pupil numbers for years.
“As a result, a new secondary school – Katherine Warington - is set to open in September 2019. This much needed new Free School has been funded and delivered by the Department for Education on land procured and purchased by Hertfordshire County Council.”
Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour Party in St Albans have criticised what they see as the county council’s lack of preparation for the shortfall.
Lib Dem spokesperson Daisy Cooper said the council should have got Katherine Warington approved earlier to prevent the duplication of offers, and Cllr Chris Brazier said new housing developments in the city make it harder for children in villages to get places.
Labour district and county Cllr Dreda Gordon said: “Twenty-nine children from London Colney Primary schools have currently not been allocated any secondary school place. That is the equivalent of one whole class.”
The local Labour Party stated they will be closely monitoring the second round of allocations, and will be seeking reassurance that the opening of Katherine Warington will not be subject to further delay, having already been pushed back from September 2018.
The group Right School Right Place, who are against the building of KWS, said pupils may be directed to the new school from further afield than they were led to believe.
They attributed this in part to Samuel Ryder allocating a third of its places to its through-school pupils, which they said “took numbers out of the St Albans general pot”.
Colney Heath parish Cllr Iain Grant said: “It’s an easy target to highlight the delays and administrative nightmare over the Katherine Warington school in Harpenden, but the wider problems across the district are being ineptly handled and haven’t appeared overnight.”
The ‘continued interest’ week, with the next round of allocations, begins on Monday, March 18.