Fresh hopes for resolutions in St Albans school places controversy

MORE than half of the district s children left without a secondary school place of choice have been successful in the first round of continuing interest. Of the 84 children who were left disappointed on allocation day last month, 46 have now secured one o

MORE than half of the district's children left without a secondary school place of choice have been successful in the first round of continuing interest.

Of the 84 children who were left disappointed on allocation day last month, 46 have now secured one of their three ranked schools.

In Wheathampstead there are just two children remaining out of the 17 who were denied a ranked school originally.

But in Colney Heath - where all but one of nine children without a place of choice were allocated Onslow St Audrey's in Hatfield - just two have secured a ranked school in the first round of continuing interest while only three out of 13 have done so in London Colney.

In central St Albans - the worst affected area - 12 out of 28 children have now been allocated one of their preferred schools.

One of the two children in Redbourn now has a school of choice, as does one of the four children in Sandridge and two of three in Harpenden.

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But there has been no change in the number of children in the St Stephen Ward left without a school of choice.

County councillor for Redbourn and Wheathamp-stead, Maxine Crawley, attributed the dramatic improvement in Wheat-hampstead to additional places being created at Sir John Lawes and Roundwood Park which has resulted in less competition for places from Harpenden children.

She said: "I'm very pleased that the measures that had been put in place by the admissions officers have had an effect, whilst being very sensitive to the fact that there are still two children we need to get places. But their appeal is much stronger because they can argue that there is a need for them not to be separated from the rest of the village children."

Secondary school campaigner in the village, Cllr Judy Shardlow, added: "I would like to say thank you to the schools because Roundwood Park, Sir John Lawes and St George's have all pulled together to help out the county council and families in Wheathampstead."

Colney Heath councillor, Chris Brazier, said: "I'm very disappointed that Colney Heath children continually fail to get ranked schools. The Government said that every parent should have a choice but this is not happening.

"There were 26 children in Colney Heath applying this year and nine of them did not get a ranked place and there are still seven left. They still don't know what school they will be going to - psychologically it's very upsetting for the parents and very traumatic for the children."

WHILE many parents whose children now have a school of choice breathe a sigh of relief, those that don't have been left feeling more isolated than ever.

School friends Michael Cox and Rhys Hutchinson are the two remaining children in Wheathampstead without a place at any ranked school.

They have instead been allocated Francis Bacon on the other side of St Albans and will require a taxi to get them there every day.

Following the first round of continuing interest, parents Claire Cox and Lynn Hutchinson said they felt "completely demoralised" by the system and their children felt even more isolated from their friends.

Mrs Cox explained that the county council said that Michael and Rhys' nearest school was Sandringham, which they didn't feel they stood any hope of getting into because of the competition from St Albans children.

That also means that they have even less chance of securing a school in Harpenden, where most of their friends are going, as those who have already secured a ranked school but are trying to get their first choice have priority.

There is only 100 metres difference between the journeys to Sandringham and Sir John Lawes, and Mrs Cox said the designated route was debatable.

Further adding to the stress, the parents have to prepare for an appeal for Sandringham just a few days ahead of the second round of continuing interest results being released and Mrs Cox raised concerns that taxpayers' money may be unnecessarily spent on the appeals.

"I'm just angry about the whole system, especially the number of children from outside the district that are getting places on the sibling rule.

"It's not fair on the children - they don't know what school they are going to while all of their friends are talking about where they are going next year.

"They are improving the system and I think that my son will eventually get a school place but it just seems so unfair that two children have been left out. Francis Bacon is just not a viable option for us as they would be so isolated from the community. They would have to get a taxi there every day which is completely unacceptable as it isolates them immediately."

Mrs Cox thanked the parents in the village whose children had secured a ranked school for still being incredibly supportive of her and Mrs Hutchinson.