Village children in St Albans schools place anguish
CHILDREN from the villages surrounding St Albans have fallen victim to the secondary transfer process once again. The worst affected is Wheathampstead where 17 children out of 53 have been denied any of their three ranked schools, and Colney Heath where n
CHILDREN from the villages surrounding St Albans have fallen victim to the secondary transfer process once again.
The worst affected is Wheathampstead where 17 children out of 53 have been denied any of their three ranked schools, and Colney Heath where nine children out of 26 are in the same situation.
Both villages have fared badly in the secondary transfer process for many years despite repeated calls for Herts County Council (HCC) to address the problem.
In total, 80 children in the district have been left without a place at any of their preferred schools and their parents now face the stress of going through continuing interest and the appeals process.
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All of the 17 children in Wheathampstead are at Beech Hyde School and they have been allocated Francis Bacon, which is on the other side of St Albans.
Despite the overall picture in the district improving, Wheathampstead district councillor Judy Shardlow pointed out that the situation in the village was proportionately worse than last year when 14 out of 65 children weren't allocated a preferred school,
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She also attributed the high figure to half of the school year not having siblings at secondary school.
Both Sir John Lawes and Roundwood Park in Harpenden are taking extra pupils this year, but Cllr Shardlow is concerned about the knock-on effect on siblings which could lead to a bulge in future years.
She also maintains that a full busload of children arrives each day at Sir John Lawes from Hitchin because many children had got into the school on the sibling rule despite now living out of the catchment area.
She went on: "Increasing school numbers is good if you do it permanently and put in the infrastructure but it has to go hand in hand with dealing with the sibling rule which allows children to come in from a long way away."
Her views are echoed by Colney Heath district and county councillor, Chris Brazier, who has been inundated with calls from concerned parents since the allocations were released Monday.
Of the nine denied a preferred school in Colney Heath, eight have been allocated Onslow St Audrey's School in Hatfield.
Cllr Brazier said: "Just under a third of the class at Colney Heath JMI have not got into one of their ranked schools. HCC are trumpeting that 95 per cent of the children in the St Albans district have got a ranked school place, but outside St Albans the villages are being penalised once again. The county council continues to fail the children in Colney Heath and Wheathampstead."
"But why is this still happening? We've had this fight continuously for eight years and still the county council aren't listening. This year I asked for a consultation on excluding the sibling rule for those that move outside the district. But they haven't got rid of it and once again children living within the district have lost out. If we eliminate that it will free up around 120 school places in St Albans for local children."
HCC stressed that the number of children without a preferred school was down on last year's figure of 118. A spokesperson also said that 1311 of the 1661 applicants in the St Albans district received their first choice school.
Richard Thake, executive member for education and skills, pointed out that 27 extra places had been created in Harpenden and said that HCC was looking into increasing capacity in South West Herts.
Outside the district but in the catchment areas for St Albans schools, there are also eight children in Kimpton and four in Markyate who have been denied any ranked school.