Herts Ad Comment: There just aren’t enough school places...

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STOCK Generic office - Credit: Archant

Of the mixed and varied reasons people move to St Albans, one of the stand-out attractions has to be our fantastic schools.

Time after time national newspapers focusing on the booming property market in the city highlight schools as a key factor in this success - and they are.

And living in the catchment area of the most sought-after state primaries comes with a hefty price tag attached, with recent research proving families are paying 18 per cent more to buy close to an Outstanding school than they’re spending on other properties in the area.

But just because you spend the cash on a property close to any of our excellent education establishments still doesn’t mean you can be guaranteed of a place for your children.

No matter how much you spend on a home, there is no equivalent way of “buying” a place at the nearest school, unless of course you choose to go private.

As the city centre’s state schools reach saturation point, more and more parents are finding themselves with placements further afield, and it’s only going to get worse.

Quick fix solutions over the past few years, including increasing year sizes at certain schools, have only moved the problem around.

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The proposed Harperbury Free School was turned down and we’re still a long way off from seeing any new primary schools being built in the city centre.

An infrastructure delivery plan prepared as part of St Albans district council’s draft Strategic Local Plan last year said that two new primary schools needed to be built in central St Albans, plus another each for Harpenden and London Colney, to meet demand and cope with the district’s expansion up to 2031.

What has become increasingly evident, however, is that these schools need to be built now. The parents of those pupils facing a 90 minute walk to school should not have to suffer while our politicians procrastinate.

Much of St Albans’ success over the past few decades has been its appeal for families moving out of London and looking for a perfect location to raise their children. But once they realise that demand is simply outstripping supply for placements in suitable schools then this is unlikely to continue.

So what are our political leaders doing to resolve this problem? Not a lot at the moment it seems. With a General Election looming, and many schools already stretched to breaking point due to budgetary cuts, it might be worth asking those politicians bidding for our votes exactly what they propose to do about the situation?