Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, met local secondary school headteachers on Monday and discussed the problems arising out of this year?s allocation of places at secondary schools in the Harpenden area. He has also had discussions with many affected parents from local villages and Harpenden itself to hear their concerns.

    Peter Lilley said:

    “I am shocked and concerned about this wholly unexpected and unacceptable situation. It is all the more serious given that the rules were changed specifically to give children from the villages around Harpenden greater priority for places in schools of their choice. Indeed, without the recent changes to the rules of secondary transfer the situation would have been worse. In addition to meeting the local Association of Secondary School Headteachers at Roundwood Park School in Harpenden yesterday, I have met many affected parents from Redbourn, Wheathampstead, Kimpton, Whitwell, Breachwood Green, St Ippolyts and Harpenden and have been discussing the situation intensively with the County Council.

    “My first objective has been to establish what has happened and then propose a remedy for this year as well as finding a way of preventing a similar situation from arising in the future.

    “I understand that there were 20 more children leaving local maintained primary schools this year than last. The changes in the rules were sufficient to cope with this. However, instead of the expected 20 extra local applicants there are 49 more local children than last year seeking places at secondary schools in the Harpenden area. Of the extra 29 children many must come from independent schools and others may be children whose parents have recently moved into the area but still attend maintained primary schools elsewhere. The problem is particularly severe in Redbourn, where there are only 3 extra children leaving the local primary school yet a total of 22 more children living in Redbourn have applied to local maintained secondary schools.

    “The uncertain economic and international outlook may have prompted more parents whose children are attending independent primary schools to apply for schools in the maintained sector. There is a distinct possibility that the economy may remain fragile next year and beyond ? so this problem may recur. I know that the County Council is in active discussions with Harpenden schools with a view to a permanent increase in the number of places in the town. I very much hope these efforts will be successful for future years. But that will not help with this year?s problems. The County Council?s Executive Member with responsibility for Schools, Robert Gordon, is currently examining all the options to see if extra capacity could be provided this year and I am sure that all schools will cooperate in helping to resolve the particular problems of this year.

    “I shall continue to work with local schools and with Robert Gordon, who is working flat out to remedy this troubling situation.?