St Albans families left with anxious wait over school places

A FULLER picture of the secondary school place allocations has emerged. Last week the Herts Advertiser reported that 17 children in Wheathampstead and 13 in Colney Heath were left without any of their three ranked schools. But other villages surrounding S

A FULLER picture of the secondary school place allocations has emerged.

Last week the Herts Advertiser reported that 17 children in Wheathampstead and 13 in Colney Heath were left without any of their three ranked schools.

But other villages surrounding St Albans have also been adversely affected, including London Colney where 13 children out of 130 have been denied a school place of choice, and the St Stephen ward - which takes in Chiswell Green, Park Street and Bricket Wood - where eight out of 170 children have been left in the same position.

All children in Wheathampstead, London Colney and St Stephen have been allocated Francis Bacon instead and all but one of the affected children in Colney Heath have been given Onslow St Audrey's in Hatfield, which is four bus rides or a 45-minute walk away.


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Two children in Redbourn, three in Sandridge and 26 in central St Albans have also been left without any of their ranked schools.

Parents now face the continuing interest and appeals process unless they accept the school places they have been allocated.

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There has been widespread anger that the villages have fallen victim to the secondary transfer system once again as they have done for many years.

But the county councillor representing Wheathampstead, Maxine Crawley, has reassured parents in the village. She said: "I know from personal experience that this is a stressful time for parents of children with no ranked school.

Process

"The good news is that for many years now every Wheathampstead child has had a ranked school by the end of the process. I'm here to help all parents with continued interest and appeals or just to chat over their situation.

"I'm also working on ways to improve allocations in Wheathampstead in the future. However, for now I'm concentrating on getting every child in the village into a school of choice this year."

Herts County Council (HCC) is also urging parents not to panic about the situation and insisted that in recent years all children from the villages had secured a preferred school in time for the new school term.

Richard Thake, executive member for education and skills, said: "Every year parents apply for secondary school places which for a variety of reasons they choose not to take up.

"There are enough places in St Albans and Harpenden schools for children in the system, but we cannot 'overbook' places at popular schools which are already full by allocating more places than are actually available in the expectation that a number of children will drop out.

"All of the parents who have been allocated a secondary school they did not rank as one of their preferences have been offered an individual advice session with an independent admissions advisor to give them the help and support they need to secure a place through the continuing interest and appeals processes."

He also said that the impact of the sibling rule on secondary admissions had been overstated and insisted that several ideas put forward for changing the system would have a negligible impact and could disadvantage rural families who had gained a place for their child on appeal.

He said that four children who were from outside the priority areas for Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes got places this year on the sibling rule.

There were also two children from outside the district who gained places at Sandringham, which had a high number of siblings among its 800-plus applicants this year.

Cllr Thake added: "HCC is in no way complacent about the annual concern caused by the admissions process. We have set aside �82 million to pay for an increase in school places due to the rising number of children in the county and we have already created an extra 27 places in Harpenden schools.

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