St Albans school-place allocation battle

PUBLISHED: 15:15 26 March 2009 | UPDATED: 14:03 06 May 2010

Cllr Chris Brazier

Cllr Chris Brazier

PROPOSALS to ensure more local children get secondary school places of their choice are being put forward by St Albans District Council. There were 118 children in the district left without any of their three ranked schools when Herts County Council annou

PROPOSALS to ensure more local children get secondary school places of their choice are being put forward by St Albans District Council.

There were 118 children in the district left without any of their three ranked schools when Herts County Council announced the allocations earlier this month - but more than 380 children from outside the area were given places at schools within the St Albans district.

These included 99 at Loreto College and 112 at Nicholas Breakspear - both of which are Catholic schools. And at Townsend Church of England School there were 112 children from outside the district allocated one of the 150 places. There were also 27 non-local allocations at both Marlborough and St George's schools.

This is despite many local children being denied any of their three ranked schools, with the worst affected places being Colney Heath, Wheathampstead and central St Albans.

Of the 11 children in Colney Heath denied a school of choice, seven were given Onslow St Audrey in Hatfield. But Colney Heath councillor Chris Brazier and Wheathampstead councillor Judy Shardlow insist that the problem could be solved by preventing children who have moved outside the area automatically being allocated a school in the district because their siblings are there.

Faith schools have their own admission criteria and would still be able to give priority to those from religious schools and backgrounds rather than distance.

Cllr Brazier said: "I think the first thing is that we need to abolish the sibling rule if you have moved out of the area - that will stop at least 40 per cent of the problem. It will also help with green issues as it will reduce the carbon footprint."

He added: "In recent years people have moved around because of the cost of houses in St Albans and that's causing a problem."

The matter was raised at last week's full district council meeting but councillors agreed to discuss it at next month's cabinet meeting instead. If agreed the proposal will then be put to the County Council which is the local education authority.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley is seeking a meeting with education chiefs to discuss problems in the town.

While he admitted that as in previous years, most children would eventually be found a place in a school of their choice, he said it would save a huge amount of pain and anguish if parents could be spared a prolonged period of uncertainty.

l A meeting to advise parents whose children have not been allocated a secondary school of choice will be held on Monday, March 30.

The LibDems have called the meeting at the district council offices to provide parents with information from county council officials about their options and to help inform the discussions district councillors are having about the problem.

The meeting will start at 7pm in committee rooms one and two.

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