189 pupils in St Albans left without any choice of secondary school
- Credit: Archant
Almost 200 children across the district have been denied a secondary school place in what has been slammed as “an absolute shambles”.
When school places were announced on Friday, 189 children in St Albans and Harpenden were not allocated their first, second, third or even fourth choice school.
Mum Josie Madoc, who lives in Edward Close, St Albans, said her daughter Seren felt “terrible” that she did not get into any of her chosen schools: Beaumont, STAGS, Samuel Ryder or Sandringham.
She said: “I got an email informing me that my daughter does not have a school at all for September.
“You either get one of your four choices or you get an alternative which is either a school in St Albans or one further away. I’ve fallen into an entirely new bracket where there are no new school vacancies left.
“It’s just an absolute shambles. She feels terrible. She was so excited about knowing where she was going. I left work early to tell her because I was distraught about it as well.”
Josie believes the shortfall in places is due to a large number of children being born in 2008, continuous housing developments in St Albans with no added provision for schooling, and the delayed opening of the new Katherine Warington School in Harpenden.
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Pupils wishing to attend Katherine Warington when it opens in September applied for both the new school and a place elsewhere, meaning that if they get into the new school their alternative place will only then be available for another child.
However the 189 children currently without a school place must now go on a ‘continued interest’ waiting list, with no priority over people who have already been offered a school but just prefer a different one.
Josie said: “Everyone gets chucked onto the list and then it’s based on distance from the school regardless of whether you’ve been offered a place or not.
“People with no place at the moment should jump to the top of the waiting list.”
School places will be allocated again on Monday, March 18, with pupils who did not get a school this time around hopefully finding a place.
The St Albans branch of Fair Funding For All Schools said the Government were “letting our children down hugely” by not providing places for 189 pupils.
They said: “This amounts to just over six classes of children without a school to go to. This is appalling.”
Tanya Page’s 11-year-old daughter Chloe did not receive a place at either Samuel Ryder, Sandringham, STAGS or Beaumont. Tanya, who lives in Bardwell Court, said: “I just find it a disgrace. It’s beyond a joke.
“I have to accept the school we’re being given on March 18. I got an email telling us we can also put our names down for Nicholas Breakspear, Townsend and Katherine Warington but none of those are our choices of school.
“It’s such a lot of frustration and anxiety, especially for an 11-year-old child. When she came out of school on Friday all she was thinking of was ‘I’m going to find my school place.’
“It’s ludicrous. It’s just bizarre.”
Mum Melissa from Park Street, who also has a daughter with no school place, said: “It’s absolutely devastating for these children. To tell a child that they haven’t got a school place has such a detrimental impact on their mental health.
“The council is trying to pass the buck onto the new secondary school in Harpenden. They’re essentially using this as their get-out-of-jail-free card.
“They’re assuming the 180 children [with two school places] are going to select the Harpenden school which hasn’t even been built yet. You’ve got 180 children basking in two offers and 189 children with no offers whatsoever.”
Colney Heath councillor Chris Brazier said that four children from Colney Heath School did not get a secondary school place.
He said: “Of course the parents are stressed. I have talked to the county council school admissions and they’ve said the parents should be patient until the second chance on March 18.
“They’ve built over 70 houses by Beaumont which rules Colney Heath out from getting that school at all. I think that’s part of the problem and it’s got going to get better.
“It’s very difficult now for children who live in villages to get secondary schools in St Albans.”
According to Herts county council, of the 14,714 children in the county who applied this year, 75 per cent gained a place at their first choice school, and 93 per cent gained a place at one of the choices on their list.
All applicants who were not given their first choice were automatically placed on the continuing interest list for any schools higher up in their list.
Parents have organised a demonstration in St Albans city centre at 10am on Saturday, outside the Alban Arena near Nationwide. The protesters will urge the council to prioritise children with no place at all on the waiting list.
Cllr Terry Douris, cabinet member for education, libraries and localism, said: “We appreciate that this is a worrying time for parents whose children have not currently been allocated a secondary school place. The number of applications received this year has increased.
“However, 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.
“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 week commencing 18 March.”