'MEETING WITH MINISTER RAISES HOPE OF EASING HARPENDEN PARENTS' ANNUAL ANGUISH', SAYS LILLEY

- Friday, 26th June 2009

 

 

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE RT HON PETER LILLEY MP

Friday June 26th 2009

MEETING WITH MINISTER RAISES HOPE OF EASING HARPENDEN PARENTS ANNUAL ANGUISH, SAYS LILLEY

 

Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, says he’s hopeful that the unnecessary anguish suffered every year by parents in Harpenden and surrounding villages when applying for local schools might soon be reduced.

He attended a meeting with the Education Minister, Diana Johnson, organised by the MP for St Albans, Anne Main. Also there were education officials from Herts County Council, St Albans District Council and a parents’ representative.

Speaking after the meeting, Peter Lilley said: “I explained to the Minister that year after year, initial applications exceed the places available in our three excellent Harpenden schools. The outcome is invariably, after the continuing interest arrangements have come into force or additional places have been made available, that virtually every parent and pupil does get a place at a school of their choice, but only after going through a long period of anguish.

“To save parents and pupils suffering this anguish it ought to be possible to offer local parents a guarantee at the start of the process that pupils will be found a place at one of their chosen schools - since that has always been achieved in practice.   I understand it is national rules which make this impossible at present. The Minister and her officials promised to look into this and write back to us explaining the rules and what would need to be done to amend them to achieve this.

“Clearly any change that might result from this would not help this year but it could benefit parents in future years.   This is a first step in the right direction but clearly we are still a long way from securing a definite solution to this long standing problem.

“Paul Mair – a representative of parents affected by the secondary transfer process – made the important point that Hertfordshire County Council had been able to expand the number of places at Sandringham school to accommodate six pupils who had mistakenly not been allocated that school as their first choice but now said they would have to ‘recoup’ those places by taking six fewer pupils from the continuing interest list.   This has a serious impact on Wheathampstead parents. So we asked both ministers and County officials to investigate whether the six extra places could legally be retained to benefit parents in Wheathampstead and St Albans.

“The Minister also agreed to look into Anne Main’s suggestion that parents could be allowed to ‘swap’ places. For example, why shouldn’t a parent offered a place at a single sex school who wants a place at a co-ed school exchange that place with a parent in the opposite situation?

“This turned out to be a very constructive meeting which offers at least the hope of providing more flexibility in future to meet the preferences of pupils and parents with less stress than in the past.”

ENDS

 Further information from John Allen

allenjohn@parliament.uk

01582-469412

 

 

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