St Albans parents condemn Herts County Council for “huge disappointment” over school places row
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Concerned parents representing a new action group formed to fight for more primary places in St Albans has described last week’s meeting with the county council as ‘a huge disappointment’.
Sixty three children in the city did not get any of their four ranked primary choices this year and many have been offered places a long way from their homes.
The lack of places is specifically in the area around and to the south of St Albans City Station where the one-form-of-entry St Peter’s JMI is heavily oversubscribed.
Four members of the action group Permanent Expansion of Reception Places in Central St Albans went to a meeting at County Hall last week but felt they achieved little.
They were told that nothing could be done to help their children this year and the only option was to stay on continuing interest lists for the schools where they wanted their children to have a place.
Action group spokesperson Chrissie Blake described the meeting as ‘a huge disappointment’ which had left the quartet feeling ‘entirely deflated and pretty much heartbroken for their children’.
She said that long-term solutions,including the permanent expansion of St Peter’s, had been discussed with the county saying that was not viable following an assessment of all primary schools in St Albans.
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She went on: “We have challenged this decision and asked to see a copy of the report to understand the criteria and the reasons it failed as an option. St Peter’s cannot exist as a one form entry school. It has to change at some point, so why not now?”
The action group is concerned that St Albans council continues to grant planning permission for city centre residential developments without sufficient consideration of where the growing numbers of children can go to school. They have asked for the figures and details of where Section 106 money - payable by developers in lieu of planning permission to improve infrastructure including schools - has been allocated.
And they have pledged to continue campaigning for the expansion of St Peter’s, a new centrally-located school and to push for maximum fairness in the current admissions procedure.
David Williams, the county council’s cabinet member for education, said: “We fully understand parents frustration that there is no short term solution to the issues they have raised as a consequence of St Peter’s, as well as other schools in the town centre, being heavily oversubscribed and, as a result, not all parents being offered a ranked place, even though they live close by.
“Hopefully the parents at least went away with a better understanding of the complex situation with school places in central St Albans and the contribution made more widely across the city by the additional places made available this year at Maple Primary and the permanent expansions of Prae Wood and Garden Fields.”
He added: “We are happy to continue working with them in our quest to find a longer term solution to this issue in the future, and can assure all parents that we will always ensure our admissions processes are fair, clear and transparent.”