Scores of pupils still without secondary school of their choice

PUBLISHED: 19:04 16 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 06 May 2010

The former Wheathampstead secondary school now to be redeveloped for housing

The former Wheathampstead secondary school now to be redeveloped for housing

SCORES of parents are still battling to secure their child a place at a secondary school of their choice and campaigners say this is proving tougher than ever this year. Out of 77 children in the district not allocated a ranked school in March, only 11 ha

SCORES of parents are still battling to secure their child a place at a secondary school of their choice and campaigners say this is proving tougher than ever this year.

Out of 77 children in the district not allocated a ranked school in March, only 11 have secured a place of choice in the first round of continuing interest.

This leaves 65 children and their parents facing an uncertain future of appeals.

The situation is particularly bleak in Wheathampstead which has been dogged with secondary school transfer problems for years.

Out of the 19 children in the village denied a ranked school, only four have managed to secure a school of their choice in the continuing interest process.

This is particularly galling for village parents as Herts County Council (HCC) are preparing to sell off the former Wheathampstead secondary school for housing which will attract even more families with children to the village.

Campaigners also believe that fewer places are being thrown up in continuing interest than in previous years and they blame the economic downturn.

Wheathampstead district councillor and committed schools campaigner, Judy Shardlow, said fewer parents were sending their children to private schools because of financial concerns.

She said: "This is very bad news.The county council have always kept their fingers crossed in the past that places will filter down through the continuing interest process, and the first round of continuing interest is the critical one. This year parents who might normally take up a private school place appear to be sitting tight. If this continues the admissions team have got a crisis on their hands."

Cllr Shardlow argued that HCC have it within their power to increase the admission numbers of a school by five per cent without needing permission from the Office of the School Adjudicator and she believes they must consider doing this immediately to help ease the problems.

She also said that two places which came up at a Harpenden school were given to siblings from Luton who were not allocated a place initially because HCC were not aware of their application.

Cllr Shardlow has consistently argued that the sibling rule for those outside the district is unfair.

She added: "The county council are like slumbering dormice -- they always wake up to problems too late. They consistently fail to recognise that the north of the St Albans district chronically needs more school places and this year the problem will not be resolved through continuing interest. It is not the sign of a competent county council that 77 children have no local school place, it's the sign of a completely inept one."

A spokesperson for HCC said: "We try to meet as many preferences as possible and 93 per cent of Herts families received a ranked allocation. Following allocation day, March 3, all families can request to go onto the continuing interest lists and submit a request for an appeal. It is however, not always possible to give everyone a ranked school."

She added: "The next round of continuing interest is due to run in one week's time and officers are continuing to monitor the situation.

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