St Albans and Hertsmere MPs’ fury over cancelled school

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden - Credit: Archant

Hertsmere MP Oliver Dowden will today (Thursday) meet with Schools’ Minister Lord Nash to discuss the cancelling of the proposed Harperbury Free School.

St Albans MP Anne Main voted for the cuts to disability benefit

St Albans MP Anne Main voted for the cuts to disability benefit - Credit: Archant

Oliver said while “extremely disappointed” at the project’s demise, “even at this late hour I am keen to ensure that all alternatives are fully explored.

“I will be pointing out to Lord Nash the huge inconvenience that will be caused as a result of the project being suspended, as well as the clear need for a new secondary school to serve our part of Herts.”

St Albans MP Anne Main said she had had a “heated discussion” with education officials and she was “very disappointed” with Lord Nash’s decision.

The politician said it seemed very unfair that parents were encouraged to pursue plans to open new free schools, only to have those hopes dashed at the last minute.

The proposed site for Harperbury free school

The proposed site for Harperbury free school - Credit: Archant

Anne added: “I’m unhappy about the whole process. If it was a no-goer, they could have stopped the project years ago.”

The provision of local school places in future has already been raised, particularly as the 206-home Bloor Homes development approved to be built at the former Harperbury Hospital site in Radlett is predicted to result in 42 primary school aged children and 33 secondary school aged children at any point in time.

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When Bloor Homes submitted a scheme to St Albans council last year – approved in November - Herts county council examined the impact on local schooling.

In a report, county hall said modelling indicated that “there will be a peak of 70.3 primary school aged children and 36.1 secondary school aged children”.

The authority asked for a contribution from Bloor Homes towards the provision of primary school places to address the impact of the housing - in this case to create additonal places at the London Colney Primary School, to increase the school from a one form of entry to a 2FE.

In regards to secondary schooling, its report added: “The current forecast for [the St Albans education planning area] shows an anticipated deficit of places from 2019/2020 onwards.

“Additional places will be needed to accommodate the secondary education needs resulting from this proposal. Herts county council is currently working with schools across St Albans to provide additional capacity currently anticipated to start from 2017 onwards.

“Funding from this development would be used towards the expansion of places at Beaumont School.”

A petition has been launched calling upon Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to open the free school. See Harperbury Free School’s Facebook page for details.