St Albans action group fights for more primary places

Parents for Primary Schools, from left: Sophie Ashcroft, Liza Macintyre, Thea McCloud Hall and Chris

Parents for Primary Schools, from left: Sophie Ashcroft, Liza Macintyre, Thea McCloud Hall and Christina Blake, Thea McCloud Hall outside Herts county council HQ. - Credit: photo supplied

Over 250 people have signed a petition calling for both short and longer term solutions to a shortage of primary school places in central St Albans.

Sixty-three children in the city did not get any of their four ranked choices when parents were notified about primary places and many have been offered a school a long way from their homes.

The problem is specifically in the area around and to the south of St Albans City Station where St Peter’s JMI is many parents’ preferred choice but is heavily over-subscribed.

Parents who have formed an action group, Permanent Expansion on Reception Places in Central St Albans, were due to meet county council officers about the issue yesterday (Wed).

Local parent and spokesperson for the action group, Chrissie Blake, commented: “We feel that this provision of school places is unreasonable and unfair and feel let down by Hertfordshire county council as our four school choices were informed and made for many reasons right for our child and family.”

She said that parents’ choice had been ignored because the county council had failed to take preventative measures to manage a situation which had been ‘clearly flagged by parents in advance’.

St Peter’s School is only one form of entry and with a high sibling intake, only those living within 242ms received a place. The action group believe the situation will be exacerbated by the number of ongoing new housing developments in the area.

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Thirty additional places have been agreed at Maple JMI in Hall Place Gardens but the affected parents do not think they will go far enough to deal with the shortfall of places in the affected area.

Another parent and impacted resident, Lisa MacIntyre explained: “The additional places at Maple primary school won’t help the families affected as it just expands Maple’s catchment into its immediate area - giving those families with a choice even more choice as they are already in the catchment area for three other schools.

“Those living in the roads south of London Road and towards the station will remain at the bottom of the continuing interest list due to distance and sibling entry criteria.”

In the short term they want the county council to rebalance the continuing interest process so it gives parents top priority if they have not got any of their four preferred school places.

Additionally they want parents to be offered the additional places at Maple school if they listed it and live within the statutory distance.

In the longer term they are urging the expansion of St Peter’s to two forms of entry so it can take 60 pupils and also want consideration given to the creation of a brand-new primary school to meet the demand.