St Albans school placement row reaches Westminster

PUBLISHED: 15:09 25 June 2009 | UPDATED: 14:11 06 May 2010

PROBLEMS with school placement in the St Albans district were aired at a meeting in Westminster yesterday. And one thing which emerged from the meeting between the two local MPs, county and district council officers, a representative of parents and new Sc

PROBLEMS with school placement in the St Albans district were aired at a meeting in Westminster yesterday.

And one thing which emerged from the meeting between the two local MPs, county and district council officers, a representative of parents and new Schools Minister Diana Johnson was that St Albans is moving closer to finding a suitable city site for a new primary school.

The meeting, which involved St Albans MP Anne Main, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Peter Lilley as well as John Harris, head of children, schools and families at the county council, his executive member Richard Thake and St Albans council chief executive Daniel Goodwin, was to look at a number of local education issues.

They included lack of parental choice over school places, future planning to address those ongoing problems and parental dissatisfaction with the process both at primary and secondary level.

After the meeting Mrs Main said she was particularly pleased that John Harris and Daniel Goodwin had been able to tell the Minister that at primary level, St Albans was at least one major step nearer finding a site for a new primary school.

Nearly 130 children in the St Albans district were unsuccessful in getting a place at a school of their parents' choice this year. Many of the problems have been put down to siblings getting places at schools which had temporarily expanded their forms of entry to ease the situation in previous years.

Mrs Main said that the minister was very sympathetic to the unhappiness felt by local parents and their dissatisfaction with the system. Ms Johnson had accepted the point made by Paul Mair, the representative of families affected by a lack of school places, that many felt they were not in a position to make an informed choice over places.

Mrs Main went on: "The Minister agreed to go away and discuss with her officials how flexibility over additional admissions can be used locally particularly at secondary school level. She agreed to explore the potential of my suggestion of a 'swap shop' where places could be reassigned at the request of parents which is currently not allowable and she undertook to examine the framework surrounding allowing popular schools to expand."

Mrs Main said she hoped that as a result of the meeting with the Minister, there would now be renewed efforts to sort out "this deeply unsatisfactory situation" surrounding school places.


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