Rt Hon Lord Lilley




    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, is determined to continue his campaign to get a guarantee of a local secondary school place for every child in Harpenden after the latest response from the government which he described as “disappointing and contradictory”.

    He said: “Officials have now come up with a different reason for refusing a guarantee after I challenged the original claim by the education minister that it was forbidden because it would in some way undermine ‘fair access’.

    “I challenged that because I am not proposing that schools in Harpenden should reserve a proportion of places exclusively for local children.

    “My suggestion is that once the initial allocation of places has been made, the education authority should be able – if it chooses – to guarantee that children will be offered a place at one of their ranked schools rather to avoid them suffering months of needless anguish and uncertainty.

    “Now, government officials have changed their tune and say this is not acceptable because the County might not be able to fulfil such a pledge.

    “I would have thought that was a judgement for the County itself to make, and not an issue which should involve central government.   In practice, the County has in previous years succeeded in offering a place at a ranked school to all pupils in ‘greater Harpenden’ usually because they become available through the waiting list process, if not, by increasing school intake.

    “When Parliament returns I will try to raise the subject again on the floor of the House of Commons.”

    Below is the government’s latest response to Peter Lilley on this issue:


    Dear Mr Lilley,

    Thank you for your email dated 7 August about secondary school places in Harpenden. I am replying as I have responsibility for policy on school admissions.

    As stated in Diana Johnson’s previous letter to you of 28th July, it is important that parents understand their local admissions system and whether they have a realistic chance of being offered a place for their child at a particular school. However it would be wrong for a local authority to offer parents assurances on securing their child a place in a school at Harpenden or elsewhere, following the initial allocation of school places. This would unnecessarily raise parents’ hopes and lead to disappointment should the local authority not be able to deliver on these assurances.

    Yours sincerely,




    Collaboration, Organisation and Fair Access


     Further information from John Allen