Peter Lilley told parents attending a crowded meeting in Harpenden that the three local schools who are sponsors of the new secondary school should accept their responsibility for helping cope with this temporary crisis caused by delay in not opening the new school until 2018.
His letter, which was read out to the meeting said:
“It is extremely disappointing that the opening of the new school has been deferred by a year. That will leave a large cohort in the intervening year who cannot be accommodated in the existing provision within the three local schools. It is not acceptable that those children be sent to schools in St Albans. That would mean that in subsequent years many families would have one child in St Albans and younger siblings in Harpenden. Up to now we have always been able to find places in local schools for virtually all local children who chose a local school (albeit after a harrowing period of appeals and waiting on the continuing interest list). On occasion that has been achieved by creating additional places in a local school.
I hope the three local schools who are sponsors of the new school will accept their responsibility for helping cope with this temporary crisis. That may mean the schools accepting a bulge class as has been done in the past. Or temporary accommodation should be found for one year only for this cohort before they transfer to the new school when the new premises open.
Apparently the County has capital funding which would make this possible – and could permanently benefit the schools if they negotiate improved facilities as a quid pro quo.
I have written to the Secretary of State for Education urging her to do everything in the power of her department to facilitate the provision of local places for children from Harpenden and surrounding villages ahead of the opening of the new school.
I have asked for a report of all the views expressed and information given at this meeting and will do anything further that may be suggested, along with local County Councillors, to achieve a positive outcome for local children.”
Following the meeting, Peter said: “It is even clearer to me now that it is vital to designate one person as project manager of this project to drive it through successfully on the new timetable. Both I and the Parents’ Group have made this point to the County Education Department and the School Trust, but I shall reiterate that point.”